Detroit Lions Week 12 scouting report: The Buffalo Bills will be a true litmus test

The Detroit Lions have faced off against some of the best NFL teams this season and gone toe-to-toe with them. They held a 10-point fourth-quarter lead over the Minnesota Vikings and likely would have won that game had it not been for some questionable decision-making. They were a yard from taking the lead over the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth quarter before it all fell apart. They went toe-to-toe with the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins for four quarters.

But you could make the argument that this week’s opponent, the Buffalo Bills, are head and shoulders above all of them. They boast a well-balanced team and have one of the better resumes in terms of quality wins and understandable losses.

Detroit is riding high off of three straight wins, including last week’s beat-down of the now 7-3 New York Giants. But can they hang with a team who could make an easy argument as the NFL’s best? Let’s take a closer look in our Week 12 scouting report.

2022 Buffalo Bills

2022 season so far (7-3)

Week 1: Beat Rams, 31-10
Week 2: Beat Titans, 41-7
Week 3: Lost to Dolphins, 19-21
Week 4: Beat Ravens, 23-20
Week 5: Beat Steelers, 38-3
Week 6: Beat Chiefs, 24-20
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Beat Packers, 27-17
Week 9: Lost to Jets, 17-20
Week 10: Lost to Vikings, 30-33 (OT)
Week 11: Beat Browns, 31-23

Statistics:

  • 2nd in points scored (28.1 PPG), 4th in points allowed (17.4 PPG)
  • 1st in overall DVOA
  • 6th in offensive DVOA (4th in pass DVOA, 20th in run DVOA)
  • 3rd in defensive DVOA (7th in pass DVOA, 3rd in run DVOA)

Not only are the Buffalo Bills atop the league in many statistical categories, but look at their resume thus far. They haven’t accumulated wins over subpar teams all year, they’ve beaten some of the league’s best: Ravens, Chiefs, Titans—all of them seven (or more)-win teams the Bills have taken down.

There is an argument to be made, however, that the Lions are catching the Bills at the right time. Star quarterback Josh Allen is still dealing with an elbow injury to his throwing arm and the Bills have lost two out of their last three games.

The Bills are saying the injury isn’t affecting Allen all that much, but let’s take a look at his stats over the past two weeks vs. the rest of the season.

First 8 games: 191-of-298 (64.1%), 300.4 yards per game, 8.1 Y/A, 19 TDs, 8 INTs, 99.2 passer rating
Last 2 games: 47-of-70 (67.1%), 263.5 yards per game, 7.5 Y/A, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 87.0 passer rating

It’s a small sample size, but there are at least some signs that the injury is having an effect on him.

And while Allen and receiver Stefon Diggs tend to get all the accolades and attention, the Bills defense remains one of the best in the NFL. Buffalo does just about everything well on that side of the ball, ranking third in PFF’s pass rushing grade (81.3), 11th in coverage (72.4), and fifth in ESPN’s run-stop rate.

In more basic statistics, the Bills rank sixth in passer rating allowed (80.4), 12th in sacks (28), second in passes deflected (56), and 10th in yards per carry allowed (4.3).

The only unit that seems to struggle on the entire team is their basic run game, ranking 20th in DVOA. But even that doesn’t seem like a legitimate weakness, as Josh Allen is a big threat in the run game—ranking only behind Justin Fields and Lamar Jackson with 483 rushing yards. And primary running back Devin Singletary is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and coming off an 86-yard performance (4.8 YPC) against the Browns.

Key injuries:

  • IR/PUP/NFI: WR Jamison Crowder (IR), S Micah Hyde (IR)
  • Other injuries: QB Josh Allen (elbow), C Mitch Morse (elbow/ankle), OT David Quessenberry (ankle), DE AJ Epenesa (ankle), DE Greg Rousseau (ankle)*, LB Tremaine Edmunds* (groin/heel), Tre’ Davious White (ACL)

The biggest injuries currently facing the Bills are the aforementioned elbow injury to Allen and the duo of injuries to center Mitch Morse.

On the defensive side of the ball, it sounds like both AJ Epenesa (ankle) and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (groin/heel) are unlikely to play. Edmunds would be a pretty significant loss, as he is likely their best defensive player behind Von Miller. Epenesa isn’t quite as essential to their defense, but he does have 3.5 sacks on the year.

Also of note is the curious case surrounding starting cornerback Tre’Davious White. White tore his ACL last Thanksgiving and started the season on the reserve/PUP list. He was removed from PUP earlier this month, but he has yet to see the field, but is also no longer listed on the injury report. Bills writers believe his absence is related to the injury, but coach Sean McDermott has declined to give an answer as to why White has not played.

SB Nation’s Bills site, Buffalo Rumblings, has a complete breakdown of White’s timeline, from injury to the present day.

Biggest strength: Quarterback

It may be a lame answer, but Allen is a superstar. He’s PFF’s No. 3 overall quarterback this year, and he’s exactly the kind of dual-threat quarterback that has given the Lions fits all season (see: Tua Tagovailoa, Geno Smith, Justin Fields, Jalen Hurts).

Biggest weakness: Turnovers

For as good as this team is, they oddly turn the ball over a tons. For the season, the Bills have turned it over 18 times—third most in the NFL, and almost averaging two a game. One key to the Lions’ three-game winning streak has been their ability to produce turnovers, having forced seven in the past three weeks.

Lions coach Dan Campbell noted on Monday just how important it will be for them to win the turnover battle again this week.

“We will desperately need them. We’re going to need them and look, that’s been part of the secret sauce for us. We are getting them and that means we’re turning a corner because we are getting them out. And so, we’ve got to continue that trend and if we can put (Allen) in a position to where he feels like he needs to get rid of the ball and we get our hands on it. We have to capitalize, so it’s going to be big for us. It’s been big for us.”

Vegas line for Sunday: Bills by 9

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