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Scouting Report: Stefon Diggs, Bills' passing offense has big edge against Lions' suspect secondary

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It wouldn't be a surprise to see Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) and wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) hook up early and often Thursday against the Lions.

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When the Bills run: Running backs Devin Singletary and James Cook each gained 86 yards on the ground last week against Cleveland, a season high for Singletary and career high for Cook. The Lions rank 31st in the NFL against the run, but did a nice job last week against Giants star Saquon Barkley, limiting him to a season-low 22 yards on 15 carries. Getting the running game going is huge for the offense overall, because it takes some pressure off quarterback Josh Allen. "We're going to focus on whatever we've got to do this week to win a football game, whether it's run to pass, pass to run, personnel groups, whatever it might be, I think that's what makes us difficult to defend at times is the fact we can be multiple,” offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey said. “We can attack in different ways." Allen wasn’t asked to do much on the ground last week, but that threat is always there. EDGE: Bills.

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When the Bills throw: Allen loves Turkey Day. In two previous Thanksgiving games, Allen has completed 80.8% of his passes and thrown for six touchdowns. Allen is also 7-1 in his career playing indoors, with a 117.0 passer rating, 16-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a completion percentage of 74.9. The Lions are going to be without Jeff Okudah, their top cornerback, because of a concussion. That’s good news for Bills receiver Stefon Diggs, who is coming off a season-low 48 yards against the Browns. If Diggs has four catches, he’ll become the first receiver in franchise history with three straight seasons of 80-plus catches. If you’re looking for good signs from the Bills’ passing attack, the team got both tight end Dawson Knox and No. 2 receiver Gabe Davis involved at a greater rate last week against the Browns. Detroit has given up seven passing touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season. Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, is the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week after he had a fumble recovery and interception last week against the Giants. EDGE: Bills.

When the Lions run: Detroit’s running backs have an NFL-best 18 rushing touchdowns this season. That includes 12 from Jamaal Williams, which leads the NFL. Last week against the Browns, the Bills used some traditional 4-3 defense against a good running team. It’s possible the Bills could do some more of that against a strong rushing team. The Lions have had a good deal of success running against “light” boxes (six or fewer defenders), and that’s traditionally how the Bills defend teams. EDGE: Lions.

When the Lions throw: Detroit has allowed just 15 sacks this season, which is third fewest in the NFL. The Lions, though, are without both starting guards because of injury. Jonah Jackson is in concussion protocol and Evan Brown is out with an ankle injury. That could create some opportunities inside for defensive tackles Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips. Lions receiver Josh Reynolds, who is second on the team with 26 catches for 357 yards and two touchdowns, is questionable for the game with a back injury. The Bills will get rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam back, which comes at a good time. The Bills’ cornerbacks really struggled in contested-catch situations Sunday against the Browns. EDGE: Lions.

Special teams: Bills kicker Tyler Bass tied his own team record last week with six field goals against the Browns. His range indoors is seemingly unlimited. After a great week against the Browns, the Bills’ special teams has climbed to No. 3 in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ rankings. The Lions rank 12th. Detroit has used three different kickers this season. Michael Badgley currently holds that job and is 6 of 6 on field goals this season. The Lions’ punt coverage has been poor. Detroit is allowing 12.6 yards per return, which ranks 30th in the NFL. Given how explosive Nyheim Hines has looked as the Bills’ primary return man, that’s an area to watch for a potential big play. EDGE: Bills.

Coaching: Bills coach Sean McDermott has done a nice job preparing his team for Thanksgiving games in the past, going 2-0. The Lions have lost their past five games on Thanksgiving. It’s been a bizarre last week for the Bills, starting with the snowstorm that dumped 7 feet of snow on their Orchard Park headquarters and necessitated moving the Week 11 game against Cleveland to Detroit’s Ford Field. As such, the Bills will become the third NFL team to play two games in five or fewer days on the road in the same stadium, joining the 2020 Patriots at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and the 1932 Porsmouth Spartans in Thompson Stadium. Surely, you remember that. The last three meetings between these two teams have all been won by the Bills, but they’ve been close, with each game decided by three points or less. EDGE: Bills.

Prediction: Bills 38, Lions 20.

Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott shares his appreciation for all who helped the Buffalo Bills get to Detroit during a press conference after the Bills' 31-23 win over the Cleveland Browns at Ford Field in Detroit.

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News Sports Reporter

I started at The Buffalo News in 2009, and have previously been honored as one of the top 10 beat writers in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors for my coverage of the Bills. I live in Amherst with my wife, Melissa, and son, Elliott.

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