Five things to watch as the Lions look to beat the Bills; plus prediction

Lions DC Aaron Glenn

With the LIons returning home with a three-game win streak, coach Dan Campbell expects Ford Field to be electric on Thanksgiving when they face the Buffalo Bills.

“That was one of the first things I thought of after this (Giants) game on the plane ride home is like, man, this place is going to be – because it’s been good. I mean, it’s been electric and I can only imagine now,’’ Campbell said. “ I already know it’s going to be on fire. … It’s going to be great. It’s going to be great.”

The fans should provide a welcoming atmosphere but the Lions (4-6) have to play a clean game to have a chance to beat the Bills (7-2) who have lost two of their last three.

Campbell said he’s not sure he sees this as a measuring stick kind of game.

“I think any time you win in this League, you have to do some things right no matter who you’re playing and it all comes down to the same things,’’ Campbell said. “And you’re trying to give yourself the best opportunity to win a game, and so to me, if we can do that when we’re competitive and we come out on top by the end of this game then we did things right,’’ Campbell said. “But if we play good clean football, I like our odds.”

The LIons haven’t won a Thanksgiving game since 2016. If they beat the Bills they will have a 4-0 record in November for the first time since 1962, per NFL research. Sixty years is a long time..

Five things to watch as Lions welcome the Bills:

1. Bills quarterback Josh Allen has been on the injury report with a shoulder but Campbell said he looks good on film. Mobile quarterbacks like Allen have found some success against these Lions. Allen, who has passed for 21 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions, is also the Bills’ leading rusher with 483 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Campbell said Allen is much like Bears quarterback Justin Fields.  “(He) can certainly throw in the pocket, throw on the run, can break tackles, run you over, has a quick release, he’s accurate. I mean, he just – he can do it all. He can do everything and does it very well. So, everything starts with him,’’ Campbell said. “We talked about (Giants RB Saquon) Barkley last week, everything starts with this guy. So, to say that you’re going to completely shut that down is hard for any defense, but certainly we’ve got to contain him as much as we possibly can. And I think that a lot of that comes on challenging the perimeter.’’ Fields gashed the Lions with 147 rushing yards and two rushing TDs, but Detroit eked out the win.

2. Detroit’s defense has stepped up its game on takeaways with seven during the three-game win streak. That needs to continue on Thursday.  “We’re going to need them and look, that’s been part of the secret sauce for us. We are getting them and that’s – and that means we’re turning a corner because we are getting them out. And so, we’ve got to continue that trend and if we can put (Allen) in a position to where he feels like he needs to get rid of the ball and we get our hands on it. We have to capitalize, so it’s going to be big for us. It’s been big for us.” On Sunday the Lions picked off Giants quarterback Daniel Jones twice, doubling his interception total for the season.

3. It’s no coincidence that the Lions defense improves from week to week. That’s always the hope when three rookies start. Aidan Hutchinson, who was the NFC’s defensive player of the week, has 5.5 sacks and two interceptions so far. He is developing before our eyes. Same with rooki cornerback Kerby Joseph (who leads the team with three interceptions) and rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez who is everywhere. Wins breed confidence which is just what this young bunch needed.

4. Jared Goff’s command of the offense has also grown over the last three games even though he’s been missing key receivers. D.J. Chark, who returned for 11 snaps on Sunday, is expected to see more action against the Bills. Whoever is up, Goff has been able to get them the ball with much success. That effort is helped in a huge way by running back Jamaal Williams who opens up the passing game. Goff said the Bills do nearly everything well defensively. “They obviously rush the passer well, Von (Miller), and a handful of those guys over there, and they’re just extremely sound,’’ Goff said. “I think it’s got to be the top linebacker duo in the :league if (Tremaine) Edmunds is able to play, and (Matt) Milano, and on the backend, they’re sharp as well. They’re really sound and do a good job and pressure when they need to and create chaos.”

5. While the team has improved week to week, so has Campbell’s coaching. Funny how that works. Last year was his first Thanksgiving game as a head coach and it came up on him fast. It was a lesson learned. Expect the team to be well prepared for the Bills.

(Prediction: Lions 28,  Bills 27) OK, on Sunday I picked the Lions to beat the Giants and got grief for it until afterward. The Bills have the NFL’s second-best offense and their defense allows only 17.4 points per game. Yet, they have lost two of their last three. Numbers aren’t everything – the Lions defense is still ranked 32nd even after shutting down the Giants. After careful deliberation I’m picking the Lions who will be riding an emotional high.)

Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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