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Video Preview: Buffalo Bills vs. Detroit Lions

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Special teams issues, running back injuries, and Allen’s prolific rushing

The 4-9 Buffalo Bills host the 5-8 Detroit Lions this Sunday at New Era Field in Orchard Park, NY. Both teams have had disappointing seasons—but the Lions are coming off a win, while the Bills are coming off a loss. Here are some things to watch for in Sunday’s rare regular-season match-up from two teams that usually only meet in the preseason.

Special teams is a problem

I mentioned in last week’s preview and i’m going to mention it again, because the special teams unit remains an issue. It actually got worse against the New York Jets. The unit is now ranked 28th in the league according to Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA measure. Danny Crossman is a double hold over, originally joining the Bills’ coaching staff under Doug Marrone. I think it’s a near-certainty that he’ll be relieved of his duties at the end of the season. The only reason it hasn’t happened yet is that Sean McDermott doesn’t seem to like to fire guys mid-season.

Running back depth

The ground game has been a year-long struggle for the Bills when anyone not named Josh Allen carries the ball. LeSean McCoy ranks 38th in yards-per-attempt among running backs with over 100 carries; Chris Ivory ranks 36th. Both of them left the Jets game with injuries. Ivory returned to practice on Wednesday, but McCoy did not. To provide some depth, the Bills promoted Keith Ford from the practice squad. It looks like we’ll be seeing a heavy dose of Ivory and Marcus Murphy on Sunday, though McCoy was limited Thursday.

Josh Allen’s rushing ability

Somewhat surprisingly to most, the Bills’ rookie quarterback’s most impressive talent so far has been his rushing ability. He just broke Michael Vick’s record for most rushing yards in a quarterback’s first eight games. Now he can set his eyes on the regular-season rookie quarterback rushing record. That record is owned by Robert Griffin III. His record is 815 yards, which is 325 yards more than Allen currently has with three games left to play. Since coming back from injury he’s averaged just over 111 rushing yards per game. If he maintains that pace he’d break RGIII’s record in Week 17 against the Miami Dolphins.