NFL Week 12 is here, and the 7-3 Buffalo Bills are back in Motown again to face the 4-6 Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Thanksgiving Day.
The Bills just left Detroit with a win four days ago, after the NFL decided last weekend’s matchup against the Cleveland Browns shouldn’t have been played in Orchard Park due to a historic snowstorm that dumped nearly 80 inches of snow in the surrounding areas of Highmark Stadium. While the game technically could have been played in Western New York, there was major concern about the safety of the fans and anyone else trying to travel to and from the game. It turned out to be a good decision for the Bills, as they were able to win the game and re-establish themselves firmly in the race to win the AFC East again.
The Bills are favored and expected to dominate this game, as they are nine-point favorites on the road, per DraftKings Sportsbook. In quarterback Josh Allen’s career, he’s 2-0 in Thanksgiving games. But the Lions are also looking to carry their momentum into the matchup from their win against the New York Giants, the latest in a three-game winning streak. They dominated that game with good defense and a strong run game. Veteran running back Jamaal Williams has shown up for this team better than anyone has expected. Coming into this game, he leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 12, more than Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb.
Here are my thoughts and things to look for during this game:
- It always starts and ends with Allen for me. Luckily, the Bills were able to beat the Browns without the most dominating performance from him. And they may be able to do so again against the Lions, but that doesn’t mean Bills fans want to see Allen live in this slump he’s in. What slump? In Weeks 1-6, Allen posted a 109.1 passer rating (second-best in the NFL) and a 1.7% interception rate (ninth-best). Compare that to Weeks 7-10: 67.2 passer rating (worst) and 5.9% interception rate (worst). He didn’t turn the ball over against the Browns, but he also wasn’t as dynamic as we’re accustomed to. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs was visibly frustrated — not necessarily with Allen, but with the offensive production, and his opportunities were lacking in the first half. Allen looked like he was in his head, taking the safe throw most plays and not testing the defense. This week, I’d like to see Allen get back to being aggressive and getting the ball in the end zone. This offense goes as fast as Allen will allow, and in the words of Ricky Bobby, “I wanna go fast.”
- Linebacker Matt Milano is making the case for the best defender on the Bills roster not named Von Miller. The reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Week is showing up big-time, and he has his teammates singing his praises to be mentioned in consideration for Defensive Player Of The Year. He is always around the ball, and he makes big plays when they’re needed. He played a huge part in keeping Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in check for the game last Sunday. I am expecting a similar performance to keep Williams and D’Andre Swift from running wild on the defense. With safety Jordan Poyer being back on defense, the Bills can get back to being one of the most consistent and best units in the league. I’d expect defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to show why he is regarded as one of the best defensive minds in the league against a team that he’s supposed to stop from being successful. Tremaine Edmunds being out at middle linebacker hurts, but this game is one that we can expect Poyer and Milano to be sufficient.
- I’ve been worried when it comes to punt and kick returns since the Bills have moved on from Andre Roberts. I think I can finally put my stress to bed and breathe freely when the Bills are receiving. Nyheim Hines hasn’t made an impact on offense yet, but if the Bills made the trade just for a return specialist with his talents, I won’t be the one to complain. Setting the Bills up with a short field is something that can’t be understated, especially at a time when Allen isn’t looking like the MVP candidate that he did in the first six weeks of the season. Short fields make easier scoring opportunities, and I will be the first to celebrate the man who can consistently make that happen for our team. I’ll look to see how the special teams unit continues to perform with Hines in the return game. But I’ll also look to see if we get him involved in the passing offense. With injuries and questions to the wide receiver room, it would be interesting to see him get opportunities in the slot.
Like last week, the Bills are better than their opponent. But this is a classic example of a trap game waiting to happen, with the whole nation watching. We saw the Lions beat the Giants when no one gave them a chance. It wouldn’t be wise of the Bills to overlook this team. I expect the Bills to win and cover the spread, but I say that with caution. Any team that can run the ball and play defense has proven to be an issue for the Bills.
DraftKings Thanksgiving SGP
- James Cook Anytime Touchdown
- Gabe Davis Anytime Touchdown
- Buffalo Bills - 8.5
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