The Buffalo Bills are on the road this week, heading back to the Motor City to play the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. This one’s been on their schedule since the spring, unlike this past Sunday’s game held there due to the early winter shenanigans of Lake Erie.
The Bills ended a two-game skid by dismantling the Cleveland Browns in Detroit, while the Lions provided one of the biggest upsets in Week 11 by defeating the New York Giants on the road for the team’s third straight win. The Lions have the feel of a team finally starting to put it all together, and the team possesses a plethora of bona fide talent in all phases of the game.
Four of Detroit’s six losses have come by one score or less to some of the best teams in the NFL — the Philadelphia Eagles (38-35), the Minnesota Vikings (28-24), the Seattle Seahawks (48-45), and the Miami Dolphins (31-27). Yet somehow, despite Buffalo’s recent struggles and Detroit’s hot streak, the road team comes in as a double-digit favorite. But is Jared Goff finally settling in as den leader, breaking out from the shadow of Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay? What players should Bills Mafia keep an eye out for aside from the big names? Is the Lions’ annual Thanksgiving tradition a burden?
To get us set for our Thanksgiving Day matchup, I spoke with Mike Payton, columnist at Pride of Detroit, about all that and more from above. Read on to find out the latest concerning the Bills’ Week 12 opponent.
The Lions’ three-game win streak—what’s been the biggest catalyst for their success, especially on the road?
Things are finally clicking for the Lions on defense. It’s a really young and inexperienced group and it showed most of the season. Despite things clicking, it still shows week to week. Nobody will accuse this group of being great right now, but they are scrappy and they have done some big things in big moments in the past few weeks. On top of that, the Lions are getting healthy at the right time on offense and they’re able to start putting up points in bunches again.
Four of the Lions’ six losses have been by one score or less to teams poised for playoff runs. Clearly, that’s not luck. Is Detroit further along in its rebuild than most understand and what might they have to do to make a playoff push?
I’d say they’re definitely farther along than their record would suggest. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re ready at all. They are the youngest team in the league and they’ve fought to stay in games with big opponents, unfortunately they’ve fallen in the end too often. Still, you’re seeing this team grow every week and you’re seeing most, if not damn near all, of their draft picks from the last two years come up big more and more every game. The Lions feel like the team that sneaks up on the rest of the league one year and is suddenly a perennial playoff team and you don’t know why if you haven’t watched.
The trade involving Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff was widely viewed as lopsided in the Los Angeles Rams’ favor. Early returns seemed to favor that idea, but has Goff turned a corner with the Lions and stepped out of McVay’s shadow?
That trade seems to be heavily in the favor of the Lions now. They got an extra two first round picks out of it. They used one on Jameson Williams last year and the next one is currently projected to be the sixth pick in April. The Rams got a Super Bowl and Matthew Stafford, but the Lions got future assets and a quarterback contract that they can escape from this offseason with minimal damage.
I would say that Goff has turned a corner from his early days in Detroit, but the feeling is that the Lions will go out and look for their quarterback of the future this upcoming offseason. The Lions can escape from Goff’s contract this offseason, but I’m not sure if they will just yet.
Who should Bills Mafia pay attention to on both sides of the ball, in whom they might otherwise not be aware without your insight?
On defense it’s rookie safety Kerby Joseph. He has come on like a house on fire. He’s started seven games in his career so far and he’s forced five turnovers. A couple weeks ago his performance against the Packers was good enough to get him NFL defensive player of the week honors. He’s been one of the bigger surprises.
I’m going to pick a weird one on offense. I’m going with receiver Tom Kennedy. He’s not lighting up stat sheets by any metric, but he seems to get one big catch every week that plays a big role in the game and gets the Lions offense going in a moment that they need it most. He might not even catch another pass before or after it, but this moment seems to happen every week. That could change now that the Lions are getting healthy at receiver and Jameson Williams is set to join the team any day now.
With the Lions as much a part of Thanksgiving as the turkey itself, does it feel like a burden for the team to play on the holiday each season—given the short week in addition to the day’s tradition potentially taking focus away?
At this point it’s part of the team’s game plan. They know every year they’re going to play that game. It seems a good deal of teams play that short week game during the season. So everyone is probably ready for it. The day’s tradition doesn’t take away from it. It amplifies it. Ford Field is packed every year even if the team is bad. Coming off a three game win streak, this could be the loudest it’s been in years. Lions football is very much a part of the day for Michiganders.
The Lions are double-digit home—ahem—”undercats” this week, despite a statement win against the Giants in Week 11. Do you agree with the current line or think it’s time Detroit some respect from Las Vegas?
I think the line is too big. The Bills are a very good team. One of the best in the league in fact. But the Lions have shown that they’re able to keep pace with teams and stay in games. I think a line of 3 or 4 would have been better. 10 is too much.
Finally: Any idea if the Bills destroyed any tables in the visitor’s locker room after perhaps taking some frustration out on 77” of snowfall?
I’ve been meaning to talk to you guys about that. It looks like a WWE tables match happened here. Any way you guys can send a cleaning crew? Also, why did you guys put all your broken tables wide right of everything else? I’m sorry I made that joke. I immediately feel bad about it. I agree to walk through downtown Buffalo as everyone yells “shame” at me. In all seriousness, we love having you guys. People love going to see a good team play in Ford Field. See, I got myself back on that one.
A huge thanks to Mike from Pride of Detroit for taking time to chat wtih me during a very short week ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. This game should be very entertaining and it appears the future may finally be bright for a very deserving Detroit Lions fanbase. Be sure to head over to Pride of Detroit to read my responses to Mike’s Bills questions, and to read more of the amazing content the team puts out on a daily basis.
Check out DraftKings Sportbook for the latest game odds!