Updated: Nov 24, 2022
Our Lions enter Thanksgiving week off the back of a win for the first time since 2018, and off a win streak for the first time since 2017 (also off a three-win streak). However, to be a Debbie Downer (or I guess a Realistic Reisman), the Lions haven't won on Thanksgiving since a 16-13 win over the Vikings in 2016. But I am no pessimist when it comes to our Lions.
Who are we playing, you might ask? Even Destiny's Child and LunchMoney Lewis know who's coming to Ford Field this week, so I don't know how you don't. So pour the Honolulu blue Kool-Aid and let's see how we can stuff the Bills like a turkey.
Record: 7-3-0 (2nd in AFC East)
Expected W/L: 7.6-2.4
Strength of Schedule: .547
There's only one place to start our look at the Bills offence. and that's with Josh Allen. He attempts 36.8 passes a game, completing 64.7% of these for 24.8 catches, 293.0 yards, 2.1 TDs (5.7%) and 1 interception (2.7%). His longest pass went for 98 yards. He averages more air yards than yards after the catch on his passes (7.4 CAY to 4.9 YAC/cmp), which suggests the team relies more on his arm than the receivers' to create yardage, which is different from the QBs we've faced the past few weeks. PFR credits 1.6 of his incompletions a game (4.5%) to drops and discredits him with 5.3 "bad throws" (14.9%) a game. He has a passer rating of 96.9 and a QBR of 73.3. Overall, Allen scares me through the air, especially with Jefe out with his concussion. The only way we can stop him through the air short of injuring him is for the defensive line to get pressure and force him to make bad reads, so our ballhawks to take advantage of any errant throws.
Football Outsiders ranks Buffalo's line as the 7th best in pass protection, with an adjusted sack rate of 5.6%. They give up pressure on 14.8% of dropbacks, which ranks 2nd in the league, and a sack on 5.1% of dropbacks (8th). They give up 6.4 pressures a game, consisting of 2.1 hurries, 2.3 QB hits and 2 sacks. They give Allen 2.4 seconds in the pocket on average. They fare worse in the run game. Though they create 3.5 yards before contact per rushing attempt, this number is inflated because of Allen's scrambles. FO has them as just below league average on power runs (68% success rate, 17th in the league), and discredits them with 22% of their runs being "stuffed", which is 31st in the league. Overall, their line doesn't scare me in the run game, especially if Paschal is active. In the passing game, things might be harder, but we can still get pressure and if we choose to run contain to keep Allen in the pocket, this might work in our favour.
Despite drafting Dalvin's younger brother in this year's draft, Singletary is still their lead back. He is handed the ball 11 times a game, on which he gets 48 yards (4.4 ypa), 2.4 first downs, 0.6 broken tackles and 0.3 TDs. James Cook totes the ball 4.4 times a game, getting 25.5 yards (5.8 ypa), 1.2 first downs and 0.1 TDs. Allen keeps the ball and runs 7.1 times a game, gaining 48.3 yards (6.8 ypa), 3.6 first downs, 0.1 broken tackles and 0.4 TDs. They also recently traded for Hines, but he is a third-down back so he does not concern me on the ground. The main threat on the ground is Allen, so keeping him in the pocket is fundamental. Singletary runs hard but is undersized so he almost seems like a perfect matchup for Rodrigo to assert his dominance.
Their main weapon through the air is former Viking Stefon Diggs. Alen throws to him 10.4 times a game, of which Diggs catches 7.6 (73.1%), for 103.3 yards (13.6 Y/R), 0.3 drops (2.9%) 4.8 first downs, 0.8 TDs, and a passer rating of 130.0 when targeted. On the other side of the field, Davis is targeted 6.11 times a game. On these targets, he gets 3.22 receptions (52.7%), 68 yards (21.1 Y/R), 0.6 drops (10.9%), 2.2 first downs, 0.5 TDs and an 84.8 passer rating. In the slot, McKenzie gets 3.89 targets, 2.67 catches (68.6%), 0.2 drops (5.7%), 24.3 yards (9.1 Y/R), 1.4 first downs, 0.3 TDs and a 102.0 passer rating. Their TE Knox is targeted 4.44 times a game, catching 77.5% of these for 3.44 receptions, 34.4 yards (10.0 Y/R), 1.6 first downs, 0.2 TDs and an 84.4 passer rating when targeted. Singletary is thrown at from out of the backfield 3.9 times a game, catching 3 of these (76.9%) for 21.8 yards (7.3 Y/R), 0.3 drops (7.7%), 1.3 first downs, 0.1 TDs and a 98.0 passer rating. Jefe is going to be a big miss in this game, as he would have been the only one of our defensive backs that I trust to successfully cover Diggs.
The Bills have only used two sets of personnel on more than 5% of snaps so far this season. They run 11 on 70% of snaps, throwing the ball 75% of the time from this personnel and creating 0.15 EPA/p. They use 21 on 16% of snaps, running the ball on 43% of these snaps, generating 0.07 EPA/p. Overall, they throw the ball on 72% of offensive snaps and gain 0.14 EPA per play.
So, how do we slow down their offence? It'll start up front. Hutchinson and company will need to make plays like this one from JJ2. Keep Allen in the pocket, let him make the easy underneath throws, get them in third-and-long, and force him to play risks for our 'hawks like Kerby to take advantage of. Fortunately for us, we have already had a practice run against their scheme last week, as the Giants' HC used to be the Bills' OC. Therefore, we should be able to translate some of our good work last week and build on it.
The Bills' pass rush is pretty average, despite having Von on their team. FO has them as the 14th pass rush with a 7.7% adjusted sack rate. Their leading pressure maker is of course Von, who gets 2.5 pressures a game. These pressures are made up of 1.5 hurries, 0.2 hits and 0.8 sacks. On the other side of the line, Rousseau averages 1.25 pressures a game, comprised of 0.13 hurries, 0.38 hits and 0.63 sacks. However, he will be out of this game. The third man in the edge rotation is Boogie Basham, who gets 0.7 pressures a game (0.3 hurries, 0.2 hits, 0.2 sacks). On the interior, Oliver gets 1.57 pressures a game, made up of 0.29 hurries, 1.14 hits and 0.07 sacks. Beside him, Jones gets 0.7 pressures a game (0.2 hurries, 0.4 hits, 0.05 sacks). Looking at the game ahead, it's Oliver who scares me. Over the past few weeks, Decker and Sewell have been real good in pass pro, so I trust them to handle the edges. It is our interior situation that is worrying, especially since we will be down to our third-string guards. Maybe we'll need to keep a tight end or running back in on block-and-release routes to help slow Oliver.
Football Outsiders has the Bills as one of the better defensive lines against the run. They allow the fourth-fewest adjusted line yards (3.85), are the best team at stopping power run attempts (52% success rate), and stuff one in every four runs against them (best in the league). However, when runs reach the second level, things fall apart for the Bills. They are 26th in second-level yards allowed (1.35) and 23rd in open-field yards allowed (0.89). This suggests that their linebackers and secondary are weaker against the run, something that Campbell and Johnson could look to exploit, even more so with starter Edmunds out.
The most targeted secondary of the Bills' secondary is their nickelback, Johnson. He is thrown at 6.1 times a game, allowing 4.1 catches (67.2%) for 44.2 yards (10.8 Y/C), 0.4 PDs, 0.1 interceptions and a 103.3 passer rating when targeted. Starting in the stead of White, Benford has been targeted 3.13 times a game for 1.8 catches (56%), 22.4 yards (12.8 Y/C), 0.63 PDs, 0.13 INTs and a 75.2 passer rating. On the other side of the field, Jackson is targeted 5.6 times a game for 3 catches (54%), 32 yards (10.7 Y/C), 1 PD, 0.22 INTs and a 67.7 passer rating in coverage. Further back, Poyer is thrown at 2.5 times a game, giving up 1.8 catches (73.3%) for 16 yards (8.7 Y/C), 1.17 PDs, 0.67 INTs and a 72.5 passer rating. Hamlin gives up 2 catches a game on 2.7 targets (74.1%), 32 yards (16 Y/C), 0.1 PDs and a passer rating of 72.5.
On defence, the Bills again have only used two different sets of personnel on more than 5% of snaps. They run 335 nickel on 62% of defensive snaps. They face a pass on 69% (nice) of these plays, allowing 0.07 EPA/p. They have used 425 base on 34% of snaps, facing a pass 61% of the time and giving up -0.25 EPA/p. Overall, they face a pass 66% of the time, and allow -0.04 EPA per play.
Overall, the Bills defensive line is perhaps a look at how our own defensive line will look when things come together as we both run a 4-3 under scheme. This might play into our hands as this means our offensive line has some practice against the angles and kinds of stunts McDermott could pull out of his bag. Their linebacking corps is the weak spot of the defence, and we should attack this. Slants to the Sun God, crossers with the tight ends, end-arounds with Raymond: use misdirection to get their 'backers out of position then hit the holes.
Bass is a really good kicker.
Martin still has it, even after we parted ways with him.
Hines has improved their return game since they traded for him.
Keys to Victory:
Contain Allen- Don't let him use his legs. Keep him in the pocket, get interior pressure and force him into mistakes.
Double Diggs- Without Jefe, I don't trust any of our corners to cover Diggs. However, the other receivers also do not scare me. Double Diggs and force Allen to test the one-on-ones.
Hit the middle of the field- Their linebackers and nickel are weaknesses. It also tracks that our strongest offensive weapons operate mostly over the middle of the field. Use this to our advantage.
Don't abandon the run- Despite their defensive line being good against the run, we can't let ourselves become one-dimensional. Run the ball, even if it's just to keep their defence honest. We have two backs who are in form, we should ride their hot hands.
Goff- 23/39, 265 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 86.0 passer rating
Williams- 13 carries, 55 yards, 1 TD
St. Brown- 11 targets, 9 catches, 105 yards, 1 TD
McNeill- 3 tackles (2 solo), 1 TFL, 2 pressures
Anzalone- 9 tackles (8 solo)
Joseph- 4 tackles (3 solo), 1 PD, 1 INT
Allen- 24/39, 275 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 97.7 passer rating
Singletary- 13 carries, 50 yards, 1 TD
Knox- 7 targets, 5 catches, 55 yards, 1 TD
Oliver- 2 tackles (1 solo), 1.5 TFLs, 3 pressures, 1 sack
Milano- 8 tackles (6 solo), 0.5 TFLs
Poyer- 5 tackles (4 solo), 1 PD, 1 INT
Hot take- Oliver gets the only sack of the game
Score- Lions 24, Bills 21
Under the Radar Ranked College Games to Keep an Eye On:
NC State at (17) UNC- WR Josh Downs
(18) UCLA at Cal- RB Zach Charbonnet
Florida at (16) FSU- DE Jared Verse, DT Fabien Lovett, S Jammie Robinson
How do you think the game will go? Will Detroit feast on Thanksgiving, or will the Buffalo Bills escape from the lion's den? Who do you think will be the stat leaders, and what will the final score be?
Pod Links: linktr.ee/roarofthelionsuk