The Detroit Lions foray to Upstate New York for what figures to be a standard yet intriguing pre-season finale date with the Buffalo Bills tomorrow night.
The Lions are 2-1 through three exhibition games and have a pretty refined idea of their starting lineup on both sides of the ball, making their main objective to sort out a few penalty kinks from last week against Jacksonville as well as finalize who will stay for the regular season after the final 53 man roster cuts happen. With a struggling 1-3 Bills team on the other side of the ball, it should give all players on the fence an opportune chance to earn a regular season roster spot.
Date: Thursday, August 28th
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. ET
Stadium: Ralph Wilson Stadium (73,079 capacity)
Detroit Television: WXYZ-TV ABC 7
Television Broadcasting Team: Matt Shepard (Play-by-Play); Rob Rubick (Color); Herman Moore (Color); Tom Leyden (Sideline)
Detroit Radio: 97.1 The Ticket WXYT-FM
Radio Broadcasting Team: Dan Miller (Play-by-Play); Jim Brandstatter (Color); Tony Ortiz (Sidelines)
Following a lethargic offensive showing last week versus Tampa Bay, there is speculation that Buffalo will look to employ their starters deep into the third quarter against the Lions. When asked about this at yesterday’s press conference, Coach Jim Caldwell simply said that this wouldn’t affect his own game plan. In a locker room interview shortly before that conference, WR Golden Tate said that this week is about polishing little flaws going into the season.
“We obviously still need to fix our penalty problem from last week,” said Tate, who was also emphatic of his development with QB Matthew Stafford through training camp and the preseason.
Caldwell’s plans specifically for Stafford are slightly ambiguous at the moment. When asked if his starting quarterback would play or not, Caldwell only said that “that remains to be seen” and reiterated his intent to evaluate players who have not gotten enormous playing time thus far.
Two players this applies perfectly to areStafford’s battling backups, Dan Orlovsky and Kellen Moore, who all eyes will be watching as they vie for the second QB spot. NFL journeyman and Lion draftee Orlovksy has gotten more snaps per game through the preseason, although Moore’s statistics seem to have more than compensated for that. Orlovsky has completed 29 for 46 passes for 316 yards and posted an 83.2 QB Rating. While a 63% completion percentage and an absence of interceptions is not the worst thing in the world for the Lions backup quarterback situation, Orlovsky has also averaged only 6.9 yard per attempt and is yet to register a touchdown, which are both glaring issues. While Moore’s stats come from a smaller amount of time this preseason and aren’t completely comparable to Orlovsky’s, they remain undeniably impressive. Moore is 18 for 23 with one touchdown and no picks, with a 115.4 QB Rating. That’s a completion percentage over 78% and an 8.2 yard average per attempt, which even downplays Stafford’s stats (21-30 for 204 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for a 97.4 QB Rating).
Other pertinent players to watch tomorrow night are WR Ryan Broyles, DT Nick Fairley, and the Lions entire fray of raw cornerbacks. Broyles is a third year pro out of Oklahoma who showed amazing versatility and quickness in college, but has been injury plagued since joining Detroit and now faces stiff competition from elusive return ace Jeremy Ross and a few other young unproven players for the Lion’s fifth WR spot. Fairley remains under intense scrutiny for developing offseason weight issues and a noticeable loss of speed, meaning tomorrow night will be a final audition to determine his place on a depth chart already loaded with the talented but raw Andre Fluellen as well as other young unprovens Caraun Reid, Xavier Proctor, and Jimmy Sadler-McQueen. All that is apparent with the CB battle is that Rashean Mathis is the most experienced veteran with a decent enough resume, but that alone leaves a lot of questions about who will emerge as the Lion’s best outside defender in a division loaded with receiving talent.
The Lions and Bills are no strangers in preseason play, with the Lions long dominating play in August although the series has been much tighter during the regular season:
Detroit vs. Buffalo Preseason Record: 21-11-1
Last Preseason Meeting: 8/29/2013; Detroit 35- Buffalo 13 in Buffalo
Detroit vs. Buffalo Regular Season Record: 4-4-1
Last Regular Season Meeting: 11/14/2010; Detroit 12- Buffalo 14 in Buffalo
Other Game Notes
The contest will mark the first time the two clubs have played against each other since their previous owners passed away. Former long time Lions owner William Clay Ford passed away on March 9th of earlier this year and owned the Lions from 1964 to his passing. Conversely for the Bills, previous long term owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. passed away earlier this year on March 25th. He owned the Bills from 1959 to his passing and was also a minority owner of the Lions before the inception of the Bills. Both men were native Metro Detroiters and were extremely philanthropically active in Detroit throughout their lives.
Tomorrow’s game also marks the first meeting the Lions will have had with former coach Jim Schwartz since his termination earlier this year. Schwartz went 29-51 during five seasons with the Lions and was fired after a depleting finish to a disappointing 7-9 season last year. Nevertheless, Schwartz brought the Lions to their first playoff appearance for the first time in 12 years during the 2011 campaign, when Detroit went 10-6.
A lot of history between the two teams and a lot on the line for many players trying to contribute to one of the most intriguing teams in the NFL makes for a good preseason finale in Buffalo.