When the Bills run: Availability will be the big question. Starter LeSean McCoy (hamstring) and backup Chris Ivory (shoulder) could not finish last week’s game. Even if both are available, will it make a difference? The running game outside of quarterback Josh Allen has been nonexistent most of the season. Coach Sean McDermott said after last week’s game against New York that having his quarterback be the team’s leading rusher is not a good thing. The threat of Allen’s arm opens things for his dynamic running, but it’s hard to believe 100 yards a game will be sustainable. The Lions are in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards against (115.2) and yards per rush (4.6), but held Arizona to 61 rushing yards last week. EDGE: Bills.
When the Bills throw: Among the 32 qualified quarterbacks in the NFL’s official stats, Allen ranks last in completion percentage at 52.4. The analytics website Pro Football Focus ranks Allen last among 38 qualifying quarterbacks in adjusted completion percentage at 64.9. So, throwaways and drops are hurting him, but they’re not the only reason Allen’s accuracy remains an issue. Zay Jones’ performance last week against New York was a big disappointment, particularly after the game he had in Miami. Tight end Charles Clay was a nonfactor again. It’s worth wondering if he’ll be back next season. The Lions have true No. 1 cornerback Darius Slay, even though he’s been dealing with some nagging injuries this year. EDGE: Lions.
When the Lions run: Rookie Kerryon Johnson has missed the Lions’ last three games with a knee injury. There’s talk in Detroit about shutting him down for the season. He’s been solid as a rookie, with 118 carries for 641 yards and three touchdowns. Veteran LeGarrette Blount has handled the heaviest workload since Johnson went out. He’s averaging just 2.9 yards per carry, but has five touchdowns. The Bills have been on a roll against the run the last two weeks, holding the Dolphins and Jets to a combined 138 yards. The loss of linebacker Matt Milano will be tough for the Bills to overcome both in run and pass defense. EDGE: Bills.
When the Lions throw: What happened to Matthew Stafford? The former 5,000-yard passer likely won’t break 4,000 this year. Stafford is on pace to throw the fewest touchdown passes since his rookie year in 2009. With a 65-73 record, he has the fourth-worst win percentage among quarterbacks who have played 10 seasons with one team. The Lions’ wide receivers are an unimpressive bunch with Marvin Jones on injured reserve and Golden Tate traded. That leaves Kenny Golladay as the No. 1 option on most plays. One of the big questions for the Bills to answer before the end of the season is Levi Wallace’s ability to handle the No. 2 cornerback job next season. EDGE: Bills.
Special teams: Danny Crossman is clearly on the hot seat. It’s been an absolute mess on special teams all season, save for kicker Stephen Hauschka. The Bills' kickoff coverage last week was pathetic. Buffalo has sunk to 27th in Football Outsiders’ rankings of special-teams units. All four of the Bills’ kick and punt units have a negative expected points compared to the league average, according to Football Outsiders. Hauschka should be able to go Sunday despite a pelvis injury suffered last week. The Lions’ special teams rank 21st in the NFL. They get to enjoy playing in a dome for at least half the season. Lions kicker Matt Prater has converted 24 of 27 field goals. EDGE: Lions.
Coaching: Coach Sean McDermott made the right move in playing younger guys. Whether that results in wins or losses, the Bills are getting a good evaluation of who can be contributors in 2019. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s name has been floated as a potential head-coaching candidate. That would be a significant loss right as the offense starts to find some continuity. When he’s not busy critiquing reporters for their posture, Lions coach Matt Patricia is overseeing a team that dropped from nine wins in 2017 to five (so far) this year. It’s too soon to say he’ll be the next failed Bill Belichick protégé, but the early signs aren’t great. EDGE: Bills.
Prediction: Bills 21, Lions 17.