Game Preview: 8 keys to a Lions victory over the Bills on Thanksgiving

The Detroit Lions (4-6) are again dwelling at Ford Field for a Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Buffalo Bills (7-3).

Let’s take a nearer have a look at the key issues the Lions want to do towards the Bills so as to hold their successful streak going. Check out the odds for this sport courtesy of our buddies at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Bills’ base schemes

On offense, the Bills’ are led by offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, a former NFL quarterback, who took over for Brian Daboll after he left for the New York Giants head teaching job. As a journeyman quarterback and coach, Dorsey has a plethora of expertise in several techniques.

As a end result, Dorsey’s wide-scope method, together with quarterback Josh Allen’s expansive ability set—permits the Bills to scheme for his or her opponent, in addition to change their ideas on the fly and adapt to what’s working. If you cease the Bills in a single space, they are going to merely transfer away from that method and check out one other method. They can go to all ranges that includes receivers, lean on the tight finish as a security valve, go energy in the run sport, shift to a speed-rushing assault, or get Allen concerned on the floor together with his wheels.

Basically, there is no singular method to cease them. You have to find a way to adapt with them.

On protection, the Bills’ defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier runs a 4-2-5 just about the whole sport. The Bills have constructed a crew that lives in nickel units—they run extra nickel than any crew in the NFL—and have the personnel to adapt to no matter offensive units are in entrance of them.

They can afford to stay on this base nickel protection all day due to the versatility of their safeties. If an offense places a man in movement to decide if the protection is in zone or man, the protection could alter/shift displaying a zone look, solely to have the security choose up the receiver in man protection. This capability to disguise their intentions in the secondary is a staple for Frazier and it has a number of advantages.

The first advantage of confusion in the secondary is that it typically leads to turnovers, as is the case this season, the place the Bills’ 13 interceptions lead the NFL. Secondly, as quarterbacks are readjusting their focus based mostly on the secondary’s motion, it affords their attacking defensive entrance additional time to be aggressive and get stress.

Because the Bills will adapt all through the sport, our weekly “4 keys” most likely is not sufficient, so as a substitute, let’s double that quantity and do “8 keys” to victory this week.

Get Alim 1-on-1 and let him wreck stuff

One of the greatest catalysts from final week’s defensive effort was Alim McNeill taking one other step in the direction of his full potential. At 325 kilos, McNeill’s sport has at all times prioritized energy, however he was in a position to faucet into his above-average athleticism (RAS: 8.52) on his method to a 10-pressure afternoon towards the Giants.

Buffalo’s left guard Roger Saffold—a 325-pounder himself—is coming off a Pro Bowl season with the Titans, however has fallen in need of expectations in his twelfth NFL season (PFF grade: 50.0). He can be the one primarily tasked with slowing down McNeill, however assist from the middle is at all times an choice. Unfortunately for Buffalo, their beginning middle Mitch Morse is coping with elbow and ankle accidents and has not practiced in any respect this week. If Morse performs by way of his damage, he may have issues with McNeill’s energy. If Morse cannot play, he’ll doubtless get replaced by Greg Van Rotten, who at present has a pass-blocking grade of 39.2 from PFF.

Gap self-discipline

If the Lions can generate inside stress, it will be essential for the remainder of the defensive position to preserve their hole self-discipline. This ability has been an intricate a part of the Lions’ success in latest weeks and has helped them decelerate opponents’ dashing assaults, together with holding the NFL’s main rusher (coming into Week 11), Saquon Barkley, to simply 22 yards on the floor.

Maintaining hole integrity is just not solely crucial for corralling operating backs but in addition cell quarterbacks, which has been a drawback for the Lions. Bills quarterback Josh Allen is large (6-foot-5, 240 kilos), cell, and at all times a menace to go away the pocket if his passing choices are taken away.

Attack however do not compromise your hole.

Prioritize stopping the run

As deadly a duel menace as Allen is, he’s coping with an damage to his throwing elbow, and it has disrupted him early in video games in latest weeks. The factor that has gotten him on observe has typically been the Bills dashing assault, which has allowed him to settle in and execute their offense.

“They leaned on it,” coach Dan Campbell stated of the Bills’ run sport final week. “Those backs did a good job and once you incorporate that with this quarterback it is a complete different factor. And so, I do know that they’ve historically thrown it, however we’re anticipating they are going to strive to run it. I imply, that was a good recipe for them. And so, I’d assume that they will strive to do a lot of these issues as a result of they did have success towards Cleveland. Now, I nonetheless say this quarterback’s clearly a large a part of every little thing. He is the greatest half, however I imply we’re prepared for no matter they throw at us.”

If Allen will get off to a sluggish begin and the Lions can sluggish the Bills dashing assault, it may give them a likelihood to take benefit early on.

Alternate Jerry Jacobs and bracket protection on Stefon Diggs

With accidents in the Lions’ secondary—most notably Jeff Okudah—they’re going to have to play crew protection on the again finish. The Bills will throw the ball all over the discipline and can goal any and all of their gamers, however the participant they want to hold observe of is Stefon Diggs.

“He’s a good participant,” Campbell stated of Diggs. “Listen, that is a gifted crew and a gifted crew that is enjoying good soccer. They understand how to win, they have been in large video games, it is an aggressive protection. Just by the nature of the method they play, it is not a large stress crew, no stress, however it’s extra simply – man, the nature of the disruption that they’ve. But so far as that, yeah, they have receivers and it begins with Diggs. I imply, he is versatile, he is robust, he is aggressive, he is received a huge route tree. And yeah, we have got our work minimize out for us.”

The Bills have too many weapons for the Lions to return to bracket protection—as they did with Vikings’ Justin Jefferson—however it’s nonetheless a instrument they want to make the most of in particular conditions. Don’t be tempted to use it on third downs—that is when Allen sometimes targets tight finish Dawson Knox—however it wants to be an choice on particular down-and-distances.

While I do not assume the Lions ought to assign a cornerback to journey with Diggs, they might be greatest served to strive to match up Jerry Jacobs with him when attainable. Jacobs, merely put, may be the Lions solely participant in the secondary that has the velocity and moxie to give Diggs issues.

Stop operating laterally, persist with the gaps

The Bills entrance is athletic and disciplined, and should you try to play them straight up, you make life troublesome on yourselves. Ranked third in DVOA run protection, the Bills assert themselves in the trenches by attacking with quickness.

“We know this protection is a excellent protection,” Campbell stated of the Bills entrance. “They’re very disruptive they usually hit the gaps.”

Add in the indisputable fact that the Lions will doubtless be leaning on the backups to their reserves at guard—the Lions will doubtless be beginning their fifth and sixth-best guards this week—and establishing a run sport could seem to be a daunting job.

That being stated, for the Lions offense to work, they want to set up the run, and in the event that they play to their strengths, they’re going to create a possibility to transfer the ball on the floor.

Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson wants to proceed to be aggressive together with his creativity. Just blocking the participant throughout from you is just not sufficient; Johnson wants to pull his guards and create motion together with his lineman so as to transfer the operating gaps. This downhill aggression is troublesome to cease and can play to the strengths of the Lions reserve guards, who’re a lot better at run blocking than go blocking.

This fashion of offense additionally performs to Jamaal Williams’ power of getting north-south as quick as attainable. Right now, he’s their most efficient choice they usually want to lean into that. D’Andre Swift is the extra gifted again, however his insistence on operating laterally is to his personal detriment, and has little to no likelihood of working towards this Bills’ entrance. Expect operating backs coach/assistant head coach Duce Staley to have little persistence with Swift if he dances as a substitute of getting downhill.

Use counters to offset aggressive entrance

Loads of the similar counters the Lions used towards the Giants’ aggressive protection must be saved in the playbook towards the Bills. Leaning on screens, attracts, and finish arounds will all be instruments Johnson can deploy to decelerate the Bills’ aggression.

Last week, Johnson confirmed eager instincts when calling these counters—see Kalif Raymond’s finish round to seal the win—and he’ll want to have his instincts on level towards the Bills.

Work the slot and take photographs downfield

Like most NFL defenses, the Bills may be susceptible to manufacturing in the slot. They are working by way of accidents of their secondary and on a down-to-down foundation, the weak spot tends to be down the seams. Amon-Ra St. Brown must be—as he’s on most weeks—a precedence.

But they can not simply pepper the slot due to how Buffalo adjusts their protection, so the Lions may have to take a look at the perimeter as effectively. When the Bills get aggressive with their entrance six and safeties, they’re going to go away their outdoors corners in one-on-one conditions and the Lions want to take a look at them with deep photographs. With an anticipated enhance to his workload, this can be DJ Chark’s alternative to present why the Lions went after him in free company.

“I do know he got here out of the sport feeling fairly good,” Campbell stated of DJ Chark’s return from damage. So, we predict, definitely, he can be in a position to take a larger load this week, which is sweet.”

Keep forcing turnovers

Turnovers have been a large consider the Lions final three wins—they created seven over that span—they usually’ll want to hold that going towards the Bills if they need to hold tempo.

“It’s large,” Campbell stated of forcing turnovers. “We will desperately want them. We’re going to want them and look, that is been a part of the secret sauce for us. We are getting them and meaning we’re turning a nook as a result of we’re getting them out. And so, we have got to proceed that development and if we will put him in a place the place he seems like he wants to eliminate the ball and we get our fingers on it. We have to capitalize, so it is going to be large for us. It’s been large for us.”

As famous by Jeremy Reisman in our sport preview, the Bills have 18 turnovers on the season—third most in the NFL—and are inclined to giving defenses the likelihood to safe takeaways. Detroit’s protection will want to proceed making performs on the ball and their offense will want to flip these alternatives into factors.

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