Last Updated: 2019-08-19
Two games are on the NFL docket for Friday August 23, aka College Football Christmas Eve. The later of those two tilts is the indoor battle at Ford Field between the Buffalo Bills and the Detroit Lions. CBS will have coverage of this one for interested viewers that won’t be out at opening weekend for high school football or spending a Friday night doing literally anything else.
Some shops have Buffalo -1, some have Detroit -1, and most of them have the game lined as a coin flip with juice with a pick ‘em and -110 both ways for the dress rehearsal week. The total is painted 42 across most of the market with weather not expected to be a factor in the suddenly rainy Great Lakes region.
The Bills are 2-0 this preseason and the Lions are 0-2. SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE. But, seriously, Buffalo has outscored the opposition 51-30 in the preseason and has looked like a competent football team from top to bottom. The Lions have given up at least 30 points in both of their preseason games, but Matthew Stafford hasn’t played to keep the offense on the field and several key guys in the front seven have not played.
The 2-0 start has brought Sean McDermott up to .500 at 5-5 in his NFLX career. He is 0-2 in dress rehearsal week, but he also has a better cast of actors this year. Matt Patricia is now 1-5 in six preseason games.
We’ll see more of Josh Allen this week than we did the previous two weeks, but as far as starting quarterbacks go, he’s gotten a lot of reps. Allen was 6-of-11 with one rushing attempt in the opener against the Colts and 9-of-11 with one carry against the Panthers. The Bills scored 24 points in the first half of that game against Carolina. Matt Barkley is 17-of-24 with a couple TD tosses in the preseason. We won’t see much of Tyree Jackson until Week 4 of the preseason, so you have to really like the Bills offense in this one.
Let’s see how the Bills handle the RB reps this week. LeSean McCoy seems to be the starter, but he showed next to no burst last week and has a long injury history. Frank Gore has taken a lot of punishment in his NFL career. TJ Yeldon is trying to make it as a third-down back, but guys like Marcus Murphy and Devin Singletary could very well have more upside than at least two of the three guys with longer NFL careers.
Cole Beasley had five of Buffalo’s 21 receptions last week and he appears to be the next great Caucasian possession receiver in the AFC East. All kidding aside, the Bills have effectively used the backs this preseason and have gotten Allen to be accurate with guys like Beasley. Isaiah McKenzie has opened some eyes and the Bills have found some serious chunk plays getting the ball out in space. The Lions have allowed 12.5 yards per reception in each preseason game so far. That will be your mismatch to follow in this game.
To date, the Bills have avoided Andrew Luck and Cam Newton. Will they get Matt Stafford? That remains to be seen. What we do know is that the Bills have five sacks so far and two interceptions. Defense has never been a big worry for the Bills, but the focus will be on the secondary in this one. EJ Gaines suffered a severe groin injury and was released. Captain Munnerlyn is up against Levin Wallace and Kevin Johnson to start opposite Tre’Davious White. We probably won’t see much of White this week so McDermott and the staff can make a determination on the opposite side. Jaquan Johnson has been all over the field, but as a recent draft pick, his spot is safe. Instead, the emphasis will be on tweener guys like Deon Lacey and Dean Marlowe, who are in their upper 20s and are trying to make the team. The Bills are likely to answer a lot of position questions this week.
The Lions may not answer any questions. The health of Stafford is the biggest one. We may see him for a bit or we may not see him at all after suffering a back injury last season. He’ll be the starting QB in Week 1 as long as he can go, but it would be nice to see him out there and active. Josh Johnson and David Fales are going head-to-head for the #2 job after Tom Savage was concussed in Week 1 of the preseason. Those two should get ample time, even if Stafford plays. Fales took six sacks in Week 1 and the Lions took nine as a team. Johnson was only 9-of-18 for 85 yards last week and isn’t really the answer either.
If Stafford plays, we’re likely to see guys like Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones back in the lineup. Danny Amendola has been hurt in camp and Tom Kennedy, who has three catches thus far, has been filling in in the slot. Kerryon Johnson showed some good burst on his three rushes last week, but all in all, this looks like it could be another vanilla day for the offense.
Defensively, the identity needs to change. Preseason or not, the Lions have allowed 61 points. In Week 1, the Lions were outgained 459-93. In Week 2, things were a lot better, but Detroit still gave up 410 yards, including 168 on the ground. Players have been sitting out, but the Lions are getting exposed for their lack of depth on defense and that seems like something you’d want to fix before the injuries really start to mount. Several first-teamers played in Houston’s 10-point first quarter last week.
Pick: Buffalo PK
We’ll say pick ‘em is the line, since that’s the consensus number in most places. The Bills are the pick at PK this week. Buffalo has two NFL-caliber quarterbacks to possibly zero for the Lions in this instance. The Bills have gotten more from their depth guys this preseason. McDermott seems to take the preseason more seriously than Patricia and the Bills look far more prepared for the start of the season, which is what this game is supposed to simulate.
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