Three things on my mind as the Bills make the trip right back to Detroit for another Turkey Day extravaganza…

Hear The Lions Roar

The Lions began the season as the “the Lions”, losing six of their first seven. However, they’ve flipped that around into a three game win streak and the wins aren’t cheapies. They knocked off (the tattered remains of) Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, a Bears team reveling in the height of Justin Fields’ power and the Brian Daboll magic-infused Giants.

Offense is Detroit’s calling card, despite having just a ‘meh’ quarterback in Jared Goff. Sean McDermott came to the podium for his weekly press conference prepared with a handful of impressive Lions offensive stats. He pointed out they’re top 5 in plays of 20 yards or more. I can tell you they’re top 10 in just about everything else.

The Bills defenders I talked to on Tuesday noted how physical the Lions are on the offensive line. No surprise for at team run by a brash, never back down head coach in Dan Campbell. DaQuan Jones called the Lions O-Line “tough and nasty”. They’ve allowed the third least sacks in the NFL and have the third most rushing TDs. Jamaal Williams has scored six touchdowns on the ground in just the last four games and he’s not even considered Detroit’s best running back (D’Andre Swift).

Detroit has played themselves back into a playoff race and they should be oozing with confidence. They’ll be frothing at the mouth to give a league power like Buffalo a big test on national TV. “They’re gonna fight for all 60 minutes,” Ed Oliver said. He’s right.

Beware The Sun God

As successful as the Lions have been on the ground, their best offensive player is wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown. He’s 10th in the league in receptions, despite having three games mostly or totally wiped out due to injury.

Number one receivers have been a problem for the Bills the last three weeks. Garrett Wilson, Justin Jefferson and Amari Cooper have averaged nine catches, 133 yards and a touchdown in those three games. Wilson and Jefferson were instrumental in Bills losses.

In a league where the rules are bent heavily in favor of the receiver and the passing game, the Bills don’t have many answers without Tre White. Dane Jackson, Kaiir Elam (back healthy this week) and Christian Benford have proven fairly competent starters, but none have the experience to be a threatening foil for the league’s best pass catchers. Even White, whenever he returns, probably won’t be up to elite challenges right away.

Expect St. Brown to continue the run of top receiver success against Buffalo.

Take The Deep Shot

While the Lions offense might have some juice to it, the Detroit defense has been getting squeezed all year. They’re third worst against the run, 27th in sacks, 27th in red zone defense and dead last in yards per pass attempt allowed. The Bills playbook should look just like Thanksgiving dinner selections: it’s all good.

From deeper on the stat sheet, the Lions have allowed the longest depth of target this season. In other words, teams throw the ball further down the field against Detroit than anyone else. One of the few things the Lions do well on defense is prevent yards after the catch (they’re second).

This all might add up to a big Gabe Davis game. Josh Allen doesn’t have a 30-yard pass since the first play against the Jets where Stefon Diggs got past Sauce Gardner. Thanksgiving should give Buffalo a chance to re-incorporate the quick strike to the offense and that often means Davis is on the receiving end.

Betting Things

Tough week against the Browns. Went 1-2 and dropped to 14-16 on the year. I’m in the red 0.2 units. Time to get back moving in the right direction.

  • St. Brown over 7.5 catches. In the 7 games where he’s played half the snaps, St. Brown has had at least eight catches three times. He has two more games with seven receptions. Whether ahead or behind, it seems the Lions need to get their best weapon the ball. And this is one of the few offensive props with plus odds (+115 at DraftKings as of Wednesday morning).
  • Davis over 58.5 yards. Davis has been over 60 yards in his last two games and three of his last five. As long as the Lions can keep up a bit–and I think they can–the Bills should keep throwing. Even if his hands remain inconsistent, there should be enough chances to hit this over. Especially if he gets a couple deep targets.
  • Devin Singletary 60+ rush yards. In the last three games the Bills have won, Singletary has ran for at least 60 yards. Spoiler alert: I think the Bills win. As long as the game doesn’t get out of hand, I think the Singletary gets enough good looks to hit this number and I can get it for, essentially, even money.
  • Also like: Almost any offensive player over looks good in this game. I worry a bit about QB passing yards. Goff’s numbers aren’t as consistently big as you might think. Allen’s last few games have been dicey enough to give pause for hitting a 280 or so yard over. I did have thoughts about throwing money on the over for every back and receiver, assuming I’d win more than I’d lose.

The Pick

I buy the Lions as a bit more of a problem than Cleveland. Their offensive swoon in the middle of the season coincided with injury issues for both St. Brown and Swift. To be fair, Detroit scored a grand total of six points against the two best defenses they faced: New England and Dallas. St. Brown and Swift are good, but they aren’t making that much a difference. Otherwise, Detroit has been scoring on everybody.

The Lions are coming off a 30-point game against a fairly good D in the Giants and the Bills have injury issues on every level of their D. Greg Rousseau is out for a third straight game. Tremaine Edmunds will miss a second straight week and A.J. Epenesa is very likely to join them. Buffalo does get Elam back, but he’s not improving on Jackson-Benford. White remains a mystery.

My expectation is the Lions can put up points, but they can’t keep up with what Buffalo can do. The Bills had the run game working last week and should feel encouraged going back to it against another porous defense. Lions rookie pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson is living up to his billing as the number two overall pick, but he’s about all the threat the Lions have. Corner Jeff Okudah has elite ability, but is yet to play at that level consistently.

Allen should have plenty of time. He should have Diggs open whenever he wants. He should be able to attack down the field. The Bills often say the only thing that can stop their offense is themselves. In this game, I think that’s correct.

It’s been an exhausting week for the Bills. From the sickness that limited last Wednesday’s practice to digging out of a historic snowstorm and making the same road trip twice in five days, there’s plenty of reason to wonder if McDermott has his team ready to handle an opponent that won’t quickly lay down.

I think they’ll be fine. Don’t do anything stupid. Protect the football. Execute on offense. Allow BillsMafia to enjoy their Thanksgiving dinner. Give me the Bills 37-27.