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Pregame Primer: Bills vs. Lions

We made it, people.

Finally, the end is near. The last preseason game of 2017 is upon us.

And it couldn’t have come any sooner.

Thursday night’s Bills-Lions game is sure to be a snoozer, complete with players you’ve probably never even heard of — including Keith Wenning.

But in your haste to mentally turn the page to the regular season, and the channel to "Jeopardy," Yankees-Red Sox, or "The Big Bang Theory," also remember this: for some of these players, this game means everything. Many of these roster-bubble guys will have less than four quarters to prove they belong on an NFL roster.

There are still a few Bills roster spots up for grabs (right cornerback and right guard) and there’s plenty of questions surrounding their quarterback situation. But while the coaching staff is focused on tonight’s game, the front office also is keeping a watchful eye on the rest of the league.

Saturday’s NFL cutdown day will be the first of its kind — with teams slashing their rosters from around 90 players to 53 by the 4 p.m. deadline.

So, expect lots of Tim Hortons coffee to be consumed behind closed doors at 1 Bills Drive.

Here is everything you need to know for Thursday’s, as well as five things we'll be looking for:

  • TV: Ch. 7. Announcers: Andrew Catalon (play by play), Steve Tasker (color analyst).
  • Radio: Bills Radio Network. Buffalo-WGR 550 AM; Toronto-Fan 590 AM; Rochester-WCMF 96.5 FM and WROC 950 AM; Syracuse-WTKW 99.5 FM and WTKV 105.5 FM. Announcers: John Murphy (play by play), Mark Kelso (color analyst).
  • Series history:  Lions lead, 24-11-1. The Bills are 7-10 at home against the Lions and lost their last meeting at home, 23-0 in 2014.
  • Uni watch: The Bills are matching blue jerseys with white pants for the third straight week.
  • Did you know? Lions head coach Jim Caldwell was Tyrod Taylor’s quarterback coach and offensive coordinator in Baltimore from 2012-2013.
  • Next up: Finally — real football can begin. The Bills open up the regular season against the New York Jets on Sept. 10 at New Era Field.

1.  Who is this Keith Wenning guy?

Faced with the dilemma of two concussed quarterbacks, the Bills hastily signed free-agent quarterback Keith Wenning on Monday.

His familiarity with Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison (Wenning’s position coach in Baltimore) made the Bills feel more comfortable in signing him. Still, Wenning’s in somewhat of a tough spot having only a few days to get acclimated.

He spent time with the Ravens, Bengals and Giants over the past three seasons, but mostly as a member of the practice squad. He’s nothing more than a bandaid until starter Tyrod Taylor and T.J. Yates are healthy.

2.  How much will Nathan Peterman play?

Here’s the challenge: Peterman needs reps. But his availability for Week 1 is even more important due to Taylor being sidelined. McDermott said he’s unsure how long Taylor and Yates will be in the concussion protocol, so that means the rookie could get the start in Week 1.

3.  Starting jobs up for grabs.

Starters rarely if ever play in the preseason, but tonight is the final test for Vladimir Ducasse and John Miller. Both offensive linemen are expected to play tonight and how they each fare will go a long way in determining who gets the job going forward.

The right cornerback spot also needs to be decided. Three players are in the running — Shareece Wright, Kevon Seymour and E.J. Gaines — to start opposite rookie Tre’Davious White.

There's no keeping him down: How Sean McDermott ascended to coach of the Bills

4.  A local product you can root for: Running back Jordan Johnson.

The 23-year-old survived the first wave of cuts earlier this week and he’s hoping to make it through the biggest one of all. The Amherst native and UB alum was signed as an undrafted free agent this spring. Johnson also won three sectional championships for Sweet Home High School at New Era Field.

5.  Will the Bills actually win a preseason game?

Yeah, yeah, preseason games mean nothing. But McDermott’s team is 0-3 in exhibition games, having lost to the Vikings, Eagles and Ravens. Wouldn’t it be nice to close out the preseason with a win?

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