The Detroit Lions have had a successful November. After entering November with a strong grip on the number one overall pick, they enter its final week with their eyes on a Wild Card playoff spot instead. A turnaround from the defense sparked by returns from injury and favorable matchups have this team looking like it has turned a corner, and rightfully so. However, the perfect storm that has led them to a perfect November may be running out of steam as the Buffalo Bills come to town.
Bold prediction of the week: Josh Allen rushes for 75+ yards against Lions
I like to keep the bold predictions in favor of the Lions, but the kool aid has been flowing with the success the team has seen in recent weeks and it’s time to return to reality. The Lions have found some favorable matchups in recent weeks and been able to exploit them thanks to a defense near full health.
Entering Thursday, neither of those things ring true. The Lions are facing one of the most complete teams in football in the Buffalo Bills, who have no trouble attacking on the ground or in the air. Likewise, the Lions are going to try and match without the services of Jeff Okudah, Josh Paschal, and Charles Harris.
The biggest absence will be that of Okudah. He is this team’s clear-cut number one corner, and prior to the return of Jerry Jacobs three weeks ago he had little-to-no help from his fellow cornerbacks. While Jacobs is a good corner, he has not proven himself to be CB1-caliber, and doing so Thursday will be unlikely as he goes against arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL right now in Stefon Diggs. Beyond Diggs is Gabe Davis, who has evolved into a very formidable WR2 since his emergence late last season. Davis is sure to give Will Harris, Amani Oruwariye or Mike Hughes a run for their money.
This bold prediction is about the ground more than the air, though. With a depleted secondary, corners will need all the help they can get from safeties and linebackers in coverage. That leaves little room to attend to Josh Allen, one of the league’s finest escape artists from the pocket. Allen has already amassed 483 rushing yards this season. That’s bad news for Detroit, a team that has been notoriously bad at containing mobile quarterbacks all season. With so much attention devoted to the back end, I fully anticipate Allen to run freely over the defense Sunday, crossing a 75-yard rushing mark that he has done only twice this season.
Of course, there is the chance that I’m totally wrong. That would start with Alim McNeill. If he can have a repeat performance from last week in generating interior pressure, that will flush Josh Allen into the loving embrace of Aidan Hutchinson and other edge defenders. That was the same formula that the Cleveland Browns used Sunday to limit Allen to a season-low 7 rushing yards. It’s not a pipe dream either, with Bills center Mitch Morse questionable for Thursday’s matchup. McNeill’s big day came against a backup center, and it’ll be his lucky day if he draws that matchup two weeks in a row.
I’m not holding my breath for it, however. We’ve seen what this Lions defense looks like when depleted, and while I loved McNeill’s performance last week, I’ll need to see more of it before I count on it being a weekly occurrence. Instead, I think Josh Allen will run all over the Lions defense and all over Lions fans’ hopes of an undefeated November.