The Detroit Lions have won three consecutive games for the first time since 2017. After a 1-6 start in which there was talk of firing Dan Campbell, they’re now 4-6 and those people are awfully quiet.
We’ve gone from talking about another top 3 pick to potentially talking playoffs. Here are five things to watch ahead of this week’s Turkey Day matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
Can the secondary hold up against these Bills receivers?
Jeff Okudah will miss this game as he battles a concussion. That means Jerry Jacobs, who’s coming off a rough game against the Giants, and Amani Oruwariye, who’s had a rough season likely will be the two starting corners opposite Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis. That’s not ideal. The offense may have to put up some points in this one in order for the Lions to have a chance this week.
The Lions’ defense has suddenly become very opportunistic over this three-game winning streak. It’s forced seven turnovers during the streak, a huge reason why it’s even happened in the first place. Luckily for it, Josh Allen has become very turnover-prone as of late. For the Lions to even have a chance here, the defense will need to continue to force some turnovers. Allen will have to throw a pick or two or this could be a long day.
Alim the dream
DT Alim McNeill had his best game as a pro last week, picking up a sack, two tackles for loss and seven total pressures on the QB. It’s about time somebody on that interior defensive line stepped it up. Can McNeill keep it up? It sure would be nice since again, the secondary is probably going to have a rough day.
Stick to your identity
The Lions have developed the idenity of an old-school team that runs the ball down the opposing team’s throat and plays hard, which is exactly what Dan Campbell wants. If they’re going to pull off the upset here, sticking to that identity will be key. The offense will need to do what it did against the Giants — run the ball to set up play action and keep the opposing offense on the sideline. The Lions will need to win time of possession in this game. As long as Josh Allen is on the sideline, he can’t hurt them.
Do the Lions actually have a chance in this game?
I’ve been asking this question all season. I looked ahead to this game and immediately thought to myself, “That’ll be a blowout.” Part of me still thinks this, but with the way both teams have played the last few weeks, I think it could be closer than I originally thought. The most important thing for the Lions is to not embarrass themselves on national television once again. This is a chance for them to show that this isn’t the same old Lions. Even if they lose, making it close against a Super Bowl contender would be important not just for the team’s psyche, but for how they are viewed nationally as well. Hopefully by not getting blown out, the cries for the Lions to be taken off the Thanksgiving slate will stop for the time being.
Matthew Scheidel is a freelance writer.