Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills

Bills can’t be taken lightly

So there’s a slim chance the Detroit Lions could still make the playoffs.

To do so the Lions (5-8)  need plenty of help, plus they have to win their final three games starting today at the Buffalo Bills (4-9).

Safety Glover Quin admitted that of course he’s seen the scenarios.

“I’m not blind I’m not oblivious to the fact, I’m not dumb either. I can look at the record and . I kind of knew it before everybody started making a big deal out of it, I saw it unfolding,’’ Quin said.

“For us, none of that stuff matters if we don’t take care of our business so we’ve got to win out, we’ve got to prepare and get ready to beat Buffalo, we get that done then we move on to the next one,’’ Quin said. “None of those scenarios matter if we don’t take care of our business.’’

Five things to watch:

1. The big key is to stop the Bills’ running game, the bread and butter of its offense. Buffalo has run for at least 165 yards in four straight games. If they reach that number against Detroit it will be a streak not matched since 1975.

2. Keep quarterback Josh Allen one dimensional. He is the leading rusher with 490 yards, averaging 7.4 yards per carry. It’s a strength for the rookie who has thrown five touchdowns and nine interceptions. Stop the run and force him to pass. He owns a completion rate of just 52.4 percent with five passing touchdowns and nine interceptions. In Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the Jets, Allen carried nine times for 101 yards and a touchdown, threw two interceptions and completed 50 percent of his passes. “Obviously a very dangerous guy. He’s right up there with a lot of the other great running quarterbacks in the league right now,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “We’ve seen a couple this year, but he’s doing a phenomenal job right now of just turning those really nothing plays into some really big or just huge plays for the offense.’’

3. Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and quarterback Matthew Stafford have to find a way to beat the Bills’ passing defense which has held teams to less them 170 passing yards for five straight games (winning two of them). Stafford threw for just 101 yards on Sunday in the win over Arizona, his lowest output of the season. He’s averaging 245.2 yards per game. Stafford has been limited in practice all week but will play through his back pain. Wide receiver Bruce Ellington, who has stepped up with Marv Jones Jr., out, will not play due to a hamstring injury.

4. Running back Kerryon Johnson will miss his fourth straight game, but the Lions have run for more than 100 yards in each of the three games without him using a combination of LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner. It will be interesting to see if Zenner gets more opportunity after a solid effort in the win at the Cardinals (12 carries, 54 yards, 1 touchdown).

5. The Lions defense has been playing well overall and must keep it up despite playing without defensive ends Ziggy Ansah (who is done for the season) and Da’Shawn Hand (knee). These Bills can’t be taken lightly.

PREDICTION: Lions 24, Bills 21

Detroit Lions run defense faces next challenge in Rams’ Todd Gurley

Damon Harrison’s presence beneficial against the run

ALLEN PARK — While the Detroit Lions have struggled, losing four of their last five games, their run defense has been the one bright spot.

Their next challenge is Todd Gurley and the Los Angeles Rams (10-1) on Sunday at Ford Field.

Gurley ranks second in the NFL with 1,043 rushing yardsm averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He’s scored 13 rushing  touchdowns and has also caught 43 passes for 441 yards and four more touchdowns.

“Todd Gurley is one of the best backs in the League. This guy’s phenomenal. So, it’s a big challenge for us. And then obviously, the other skill players that they have,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said.

In the past three games the Lions’ defense has given up just 148 total rushing yards. In that span they haven’t given up a run of more than 10 yards. They played solid running teams — Chicago twice with Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard and Carolina with Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey.

“It’s been a great job and all those games we’ve for the most part given ourselves an opportunity to win. That’s always the goal to stop the run game,’’ safety Glover Quin said.

A number of factors play into the improvement.

“We’ve tackled well, we’ve had great play up front. Our D-line has been playing phenomenal, our linebackers have been playing phenomenal. As a secondary we’ve made tackles when we had to,’’ Quin said. “You look at a lot of the games we played in … we’ve been playing great in the run game and then we give up one run for 60 or 70 yards and it kills all the averages. We’ve been playing solid run defense for a while this year, these last few weeks we haven’t given up any big runs.’’

There is another major difference too.

His name is Damon “Snacks” Harrison. The veteran defensive tackle was acquired in a trade with the Giants on Oct. 25. In his five games with the Lions, he has 2.5 sacks, 26 tackles and four quarterback hits.

“I think he makes a difference, he’s a big-time player in the middle, he’s a big-time run stopper. So when an offense knows they have to block him a certain way or put a certain amount of guys on him that frees up other guys to get one on ones in different situations,’’ Quin said. “So pretty sure he changes the clocking schemes for a lot of those teams, when they don’t block him or when they try to single him he makes the plays.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Patricia notes that it’s a team effort but does agree Harrison has made a difference.

“I would say with Damon, (he’s) obviously done a great job for us helping us inside and really, just seeing a guy that has great experience be in the middle. (He’s) seen a lot of different blocks, has seen a lot of different schemes, and maybe helps settle some things down for some of the younger players that we are trying to play with out there and some of the new guys with the scheme,’’ Patricia said. “Harrison’s familiar with the techniques that we use because he’s been coached similarly in the past with some of the same techniques. So, from that standpoint, it’s been beneficial to have his experience out on the field.”

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears: Five things to watch

Chicago sits atop NFC North

ALLEN PARK — It’s the second straight division game for the Lions who failed miserably at the Vikings last week.

It doesn’t get any easier, going up against the Chicago Bears (5-3), the leaders in the NFC North. The Vikings are in second (5-3-1) with the Packers (3-4-1) in third and the Lions (3-5) in the basement.

The Lions have won their last two games at Soldier Field but this team is different and still difficult to figure out due to inconsistent play week in and week out.

It will be a little tougher without two key starters who are sidelined with injuries. Cornerback Darius Slay (knee) and right guard T.J. Lang will be out.

The Bears have won all five of their games against less-than-stellar teams. One of those teams is the Seahawks (4-4), who smacked the Lions two weeks ago. The Bears also beat the Cardinals (2-6), Tampa Bay (3-5), Jets (3-6) and the Bills (2-7). That’s a combined 14-28 win-loss record.

If the Lions have any hope of turning around this season and matching their 9-7 record from last season, defeating the Bears would be a great place to start.

Five things to watch:

1. The offensive line must adjust and provide more protection for Stafford who was sacked 10 times by the Vikings. It was not all on the line, but they didn’t help. Patricia said it was lack of fundamentals and execution that led to the wretched loss at Minnesota last week. So he planned to get back to basics at practice this week. “I like our offensive line a lot. These guys work extremely hard. The offensive line is a hard group to play in. Like you said, my background with the o-line, I understand that, again, I think I’ve mentioned this before, when you try to see the game through the same set of eyes five different way, it’s not easy,’’ Patricia said. This week they’ll be without Lang and they’ll be facing big-time Bears disruptors DT Akiem Hicks and LB Khalil Mack.

2. Matthew Stafford has had a rough go in the last two weeks, both losses. In that span he has completed 68.4 percent of his pass attempts for 509 yards which is not bad considering he was sacked 13 times. He has taken the blame for some of those sacks and maybe he held on too long trying to make something happen. But also it’s tough to throw to receivers who can’t get open. He also lost one fumble in each of the last two weeks. “I’m sure if you sort out certain numbers and don’t really take into account game situations, you can kind of make them say whatever you would like,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said when asked about Stafford. “Our job is to do what we can do to score points to help our team win games. It’s on us to keep ourselves in a good game situation so that we do have multiple avenues available to us to attack a defense. Sometimes we have this year and sometimes we have been a little bit further behind than we should be.’’

3. Grabbing a lead early, once again is key. The Bears have outscored opponents 120-51 in the first half — 75-23 in the second quarter. The Lions need a good start, especially with the way they’ve played the last two weeks, to have a chance of winning. Stafford used to be able to fight back and come from behind in the fourth quarter, but not sure that’s much of a possibility this season. “I think it’s on our list of musts every week, is to start fast. And that’s as a team. I’m a big part of that team, I understand that, and doing what I can do to help us get points,’’ Stafford said. “Converting third downs, hitting big shots when we get it, just making sure that when we have those opportunities from the opening kickoff that we’re ready to go. The more I can hit the throws and make the right checks, all that kind of stuff, the better we’re going to be.”

4. The defense has to stop the run and the Bears have a dynamic duo in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen who are two different kinds of backs. “Jordan Howard, a big powerful guy, downhill type of back, who has enough speed, keeps the ball rolling for them. Tarik is very dynamic, very explosive, (he can) do it all, he runs between the tackles, he runs outside, he runs routes, catches passes, screens, they get him involved a lot of different ways,’’ safety Glover Quin said. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge for us. We have to identify who’s in the ball game and understand how to play against each guy’s skill sets because they are two dynamic players.’’ And he noted that at times both backs are on the field together.

5. Mitchell Trubisky is a young quarterback who has shown much improvement over last season, completing 64.2 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He’s also mobile quarterback.  “If things break down and he runs and there’s a receiver open, he’s going to throw it to that receiver as he’s advancing towards the line of scrimmage. He has more of a tendency to put the ball away and go with it as opposed to trying to get outside the pocket, reset, look downfield and throw the ball,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said.

PREDICTION: Bears 24, Lions 17