For the second consecutive week, the Buffalo Bills are the betting favorites on their home turf at New Era Field. Obviously, last week’s contest with the New York Jets didn’t go the way that they would have liked, but Josh Allen and the gang will have another chance to add to the win column against a suspect Detroit Lions squad.
We’ve reached that awesome (and all too familiar) point in the season where fans have begun to fiercely debate whether it’s more important to lose and obtain a better draft slot, or win and build momentum for next year. I’m not sure there’s ever been a deader horse, but that’s what happens when you’ve only made the playoffs twice in the last two decades.
Either way, as has been the case since his return from injury, all eyes will be on Allen. Good or bad, he’ll be the main point of discussion for the rest of the year as we prepare for an entire offseason of war between his most ardent supporters, and stubborn detractors.
That sound you hear in the distance is me banging my head against the desk.
Anyway, let’s take a look at what the Bills need to do in order to emerge victorious over a Detroit team that’s once again very weak, but for different reason that we’re accustomed to seeing.
Another Defensive Struggle?
Over the better part of the last decade, the Lions have been notorious for having a high-scoring offense and a relatively pedestrian defense, which has caused them to get into their fair share of “track meets”.
After just missing the playoffs last season with a 9-7 record, they’ve taken a step back in Matt Patricia’s first season at the helm, currently holding a mark of 5-8. While the offense has struggled (currently ranked 24th in the NFL), the defense has actually improved significantly, which isn’t exactly a surprise considering Patricia’s background as a defensive coordinator.
At the moment, the Lions rank 11th in the NFL in terms of average yards allowed per-game. What’s interesting is how well they’ve mitigated damage while also failing to create turnovers. With only six interceptions on the season so far, they’re tied for second-last in the league. Only the San Francisco 49ers have fewer with two (yes, you read that right).
Detroit’s strength on defense comes from the trenches. With 37 sacks on the year, they’ve had no trouble pressuring opposing quarterbacks. After an absolutely brutal showing from the Bills’ offensive line last week, they’ll need to be much better today in order to keep Allen upright.
On the flip side, pretty much everyone is aware at this point that the Bills have allowed the fewest yards in the NFL to date. Despite Sam Darnold’s moderate success last week, you can expect a strong performance against a Lions team that has struggled, especially on the road this season.
As was the case last week against New York, this game will likely be another low-scoring battle between two very strong defensive fronts.
Look, I’m about to write something that will probably upset you initially, but keep reading and you’ll feel better, I promise.
Josh Allen was not good last week, but that’s okay. Did he do some nice things? Yes. Did he do some not-so-nice things? Yes. Was it another step in the right direction for a player who came into the league with a myriad of concerning flaws? Absolutely.
Anyone who follows my work knows that I was not a fan of selecting Allen in the first round. Statistically and historically, the flaws he exhibited in college typically don’t magically resolve themselves at the NFL level. I watched every one of his passes last year at Wyoming, sometimes more than ten times each. It’s almost comical how the Bills have put him in almost the same position that he was in with the Cowboys last season.
Let me explain.
Watching his film from his senior season in the Mountain West, two big things stood out about the Wyoming offense. Their receivers were pretty terrible, and their offensive line was that of a mediocre high-school team.
The Bills have the exact same problems this year. Now the question becomes whether or not Allen’s more questionable decisions (from both his collegiate film and his rookie season) are a result of having sub-par supporting casts.
Regardless, some of the things he’s been able to do this year in spite of having zero weapons outside of Zay Jones, is remarkable and proof that, while it remains to be seen how high his ceiling can be, his floor is much higher than most anticipated.
It’s why these last few games are so important for his development. If he can create offense with what he currently has, it will add to the intrigue that next season holds where the Bills will have an inevitably better group of players on that side of the ball.
So, in short, Allen can be imperfect and still have a potentially bright future. Those two concepts are not mutually exclusive. If people could just wrap their heads around that fact, it could help put an end to this silly debate.
He’s our guy. Enjoy the good, take the bad in stride, and take solace in the fact that this will almost certainly be the worst set of weapons he’ll have at his disposal in Buffalo.
Every week where I’ve predicted a Bills win this season, they’ve lost so I’m going to try and reverse the trend here. Everything in me wants to pick the Bills, because quite frankly, I feel that they’re stronger in every facet of the game besides special teams (#FireCrossman).
Superstition be damned, Bills improve to 5-8 in a low-scoring affair.
Final Score: Bills 20, Lions 17
Editor’s babble: Thanks as always to Anthony Sciandra for his terrific contributions to our blog. You can find Anthony on Twitter @SciandraSports.