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Top 7 storylines to follow for Bills at Lions | Thanksgiving Game Week 12


It's a quick week for the Bills as they have just a couple days to prepare for the Lions before they head back to the Motor City. Two games in the same stadium in less than five days. It's crazy, but that's been the theme of this season in a lot of ways.

Here are 7 storylines to follow ahead of your big Thanksgiving meal alongside some afternoon Bills football.

1. Bills on Thanksgiving over the years

Since head coach Sean McDermott came to Buffalo in 2017, the Bills have played on Thanksgiving twice and are set to play on the holiday for the third time in four years. Buffalo is 2-0 in their last two games on Thanksgiving with a win over the Saints in 2021 (31-6) and a win over the Cowboys in 2019 (26-15).

In those two games, the Bills have averaged 28.5 points per game and 358.5 total yards per game on offense. On defense, Buffalo has allowed an average of 10.5 points per game, 308 yards per game, and has totaled three takeaways and six sacks in those contests.

Against the Cowboys, quarterback Josh Allen had his coming out party as he showcased his skills to the world. Allen completed 79% of his passes for 231 yards, totaled two touchdowns and finished with a 120.7 passer rating. Against New Orleans, Allen did it again. The QB completed 82% of his passes for 260 yards, threw for four touchdowns and finished with a 115.2 passer rating.

Allen has put up great numbers on the primetime stage in the past, and it's no different on Thanksgiving. We'll see if he can whip up another 4 TD performance on Thursday afternoon with some turkey legs as a celebratory meal.

McDermott said he feels honored to coach in a third Thanksgiving game as the Bills head coach.

"For the players and coaches who have never done it before, I think it's an honor and fun to be a part of a tradition like that, especially playing at Detroit, who has traditionally played on Thanksgiving," McDermott shared. "And then just to be able to tell your kids one day, 'Hey, I coached on Thanksgiving Day or I played in a Thanksgiving Day game on television where most people will be watching and sitting at home and celebrating Thanksgiving with their families."

2. Detroit's 3-game win streak

Bills Mafia exhaled with a sigh of relief on Sunday afternoon after the Bills earned their way back into the win column with a victory over the Browns. The Lions have also suffered a losing streak of their own this season—five straight losses from Week 3 to Week 8 with a bye week in the middle. Well, Detroit has since dumped the losses and has won their last three games (Packers, Bears and Giants).

Detroit beat the Giants in Week 11 with a final score of 31-18. They only lost the lead once and didn't trail after the second quarter. The Lions had a successful day on the ground by scoring four rushing touchdowns and totaling 160 rushing yards.

Since Week 9, the Lions are averaging 25.67 points per game (tied for 6th in the NFL), have been scoring touchdowns in the red zone 69.2% of the time (10th) and have a +6 turnover margin (1st). On defense they've allowed 19 points per game (9th), 70.6 passer rating (4th) and have 6 interceptions (1st). Detroit's offense has averaged numbers like this throughout the season, but it's the defense who has really stepped it up in the last three games going from allowing 28.2 points per game (32nd) to 19.

On NFL Network's Good Morning Football, Kyle Brandt said he's looking forward to this Week 12 matchup because of what the Lions have done lately.

"Bills vs. Lions, there's some meat on that bone," Brandt said. "There's some meat on that bone on Thanksgiving. They've got to go back and play a red-hot Detroit team. Let's go. I like it."

3. Can the run defense stop another impressive RB?

Lately the Bills have been tasked with limiting a star running back almost every week. It'll be no different this week as the defense prepares for Jamaal Williams who leads the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns.

Buffalo saw a big improvement in their run defense against the Browns as they successfully turned running back Nick Chubb into a non-factor. Going into the game, Chubb was averaging over 100 rushing yards a game but only put up 19 against the Bills. Chubb averaged just 1.4 yards per rush, which was his lowest average since 2018. The Bills held the Browns to just 26 rushing yards in the second half and 80 overall.

In Sunday's game against the Giants, all of the Lions touchdowns came on the ground and Williams had a season-high three rushing touchdowns. Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier knows it'll be another big test and wants his defense to show up with the same demeanor they had on Sunday against the Browns.

"They had a big day running the ball," Frazier said of Detroit's success against the Giants. "I think they were over 160 yards rushing, so a big day for them. We're going to have our hands full being able to carry over some of the things we did yesterday into this ball game. But we got to bring that same type of attitude and really carry that chip on our shoulder when it comes to the run game.

"We got to bring that to this ball game as well. And they do other things as well, but it starts with being able to defend the run game."

4. Will the Bills take advantage of a struggling Detroit defense?

For most of the season, Detroit's offense hasn't been the biggest reason why the Lions are 4-6 through 11 weeks of play. They are averaging 25 points per game (8th), 366 total yards per game (6th) and are one of the best in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on 71.1% of their stops inside the 20.

The issue for Detroit has been their defense. They rank at the bottom of the NFL in several categories, including points allowed (28.2), total yards allowed (415.9), opponent third down conversion rate and more. Teams have also scored more than 30 points against them in five different games this season.

The Bills have scored at least 30 points in their last two games and rank second on offense averaging 28.1 points and 417.4 total yards per game. Buffalo has struggled in the red zone this season and only scored touchdowns on 40% of their red zone trips against the Browns. The Lions are letting teams find the end zone 66.7% of the time in the red zone, so this could be the perfect opportunity for the Bills to get right in that area.

5. A repeat performance for the Bills RBs?

Buffalo's running backs came to play in Week 11. Going into the game, Buffalo's running backs were averaging 73 rushing yards per game and the squad put up 164 running back rushing yards against the Browns.

Devin Singletary and James Cook put up season-high numbers as they rushed for 86 yards and each averaged over 4.5 yards per carry. The three, including Nyheim Hines could get a chance to put up numbers like that on Thursday because the Lions are allowing an average of 153.7 rushing yards per game, which is the second most in the NFL.

Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey said he likes attacking defenses by using multiple weapons, including the running backs. Dorsey has loved the consistency Singletary has brought to this season and thinks the trio of Singletary, Cook and Hines can be a problem for defenses if they keep it up.

"He's been a guy who's so consistent week in, week out with running the ball, catching the ball in the backfield, protecting for us," Dorsey said of Singletary. "So he's been there just consistently doing his job effectively each and every week. And it's great to see James stepping in and continuing to develop, and continue as he gets more touches, getting comfortable and being explosive as he is. And then mixing Hines in as well in there. It's just a great group of guys that I think can be a dangerous kind of trio back there for us."

6. Back-to-back games in the same stadium

The Bills will have just two days in Orchard Park before heading back to Detroit on Wednesday afternoon. Buffalo will play at Ford Field for the second straight week, which actually won't be the first time they've played in the same stadium in back-to-back games if you can believe it. 

In 2019, the Bills played two straight games in Met Life Stadium because they had a game against the Jets and then played the Giants the following week. Even though the Bills were the home team against the Browns, they asked to be in the away locker room so it would get them used to their surroundings.

Safety Jordan Poyer thinks that familiarity could help the Bills come Thursday.

"I enjoy coming to Detroit," Poyer said. "It's awesome, especially when you get to play indoors. It's a little bit more warmer. I think what coaches, (Brandon) Beane and the organization did as far as getting us here, getting us in the locker room that we're gonna be in on Thursday, on the same sideline, so we're able to visualize and kind of see as we leave what it's going to be like when we come back in a couple of days."

7. A battle for the AFC

With 7 games left in the regular season, it'll be a race to first place in the division and the conference. After Buffalo's win over the Browns and a Jets loss against the Patriots, the Bills moved up to second place in the AFC East as they are right below the Dolphins. They also moved up to fifth place in the conference with the Chiefs (8-2, 1st place), Dolphins (7-3, 2nd), Titans (7-3, 3rd) and the Ravens (7-3, 4th) ahead of them.

There are a couple games to pay attention to this weekend as those could affect Buffalo's placing in the division and conference. The Patriots (6-4) will face the Vikings (8-2) in the final game on Thanksgiving night. The Dolphins (7-3) will play the Texans (1-8-1) on Sunday afternoon in Miami and the Jets (6-4) will go against the Bears (3-8) on Sunday at 1:00 pm ET.

Bills fans have traveled to Detroit to support their team. This gallery is presented by SnapDragon Apples.

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