Week 5 brings the Lions back home to face the Buffalo Bills.
Much has been made of the surprising level of effectiveness E.J.Manual displayed last season. Yet, in spite of this and a strong running attack, the Bills were largely uneffective. So the Bills decided to be proactive and snatched the prize of the draft, wide receiver Sammy Watkins. He should definitely add spark to a sputtering offense, but will it be enough?
While E.J. Manuel actually did perform better than most people expected and made some spectacular plays at key moments, it was not enough to save a passing attack that was just downright horrible. It ended up at the bottom of the league in yards, completion percentage, touchdowns and sacks allowed.
The Bills recognized this weakness and spent the off-season acquiring help for the offensive line and Sammy Watkins in the hope of improving the passing game. While these moves are noble and Watkins will be a stellar addition, after him the talent of the remaining receivers plummets substantially.
The rushing game, at first glance, appears significantly better. It is, but not top 5 better. Although the yards per game put the rushing attack in the top 5, when you consider the Bills rush far more than most other teams, it only averages out to 4.2 yards per play. That's only good for 14th. And their rushing touchdowns and 20+ yard rushes only rank 10th.
When combined, this offense was only good for 21.2 points per game last season, which helps to explain the 6-10 record.
The Bills passing attack appears really good, but a closer look shows us that... nope they really are outstanding.
The yards per game has them in the top five. But for completion percentage, which is a much better indicator, the Bills were best in the league only allowing 55%. And the sack totals were second best only to Carolina with 57.
With this acknowledged, however, it is strange. You would think with a pass defense that dominant, they would have had success against the top 10 passing attacks last year. They went 0-4. Curious.
Perhaps the rushing defense had something to do with that. Aside from keeping opponents out of the end zone, the Bills languished in the bottom of the league here too. They allowed 128.9 yards per game, 4.4 yards per play and a league worst 19 rushes of 20+ yards or more.
This may be the stronger of the two sides of the ball, but the Bills still have a mountain of work to do here as well.
Lions Offense Vs. Bills Defense:
This will be billed as the vaunted Lions pass offense against the stout Bills pass defense.
Don't believe it.
Although the Lions have passed, can pass, and are not afraid to pass, this run defense is just too tasty. Sitting there with a tandem of Reggie Bush and either Joique Bell or Theo Riddick, they have just the right blend of mixed running to gash the Bills all day long.
And remember, the Bills defense didn't fair so well versus the top passing attacks. Guess where the Lions passing attack ranks? Top 10.
Lions Defense Vs. Bills Offense:
Usually defense is about pressure. If you pressure the quarterback enough, things go in your favor. While pressure won't hurt here, containment will be the focus. The defensive tackles should be stout. But this is a running game that can bounce outside on you and turn the corner.
E.J. Manuel should have a decent game. In their attempts to corral the running game, less focus will be put on him and he will get a chance to showcase his brand new receiver.
But the Bills are going to learn a hard lesson the Lions have spent the last few years learning. Having one dynamic receiver gets you a lot of air time on sports shows, but it doesn't win you games. You need a group of receivers to allow the passing game to shine. The Bills have made a significant start. They still have work to do.
The Lions are coming home and this is the kind of situation where you would look for a trap game. I think the Lions will be in the mood to let it play out that way for the first half, but I don't think the Bills have enough just yet to make them pay. Maybe next year.
Lions Win: 17-14