The winless Bills play at home for the first time in five weeks when they host the 2-6 Lions in what’s been dubbed “The Futility Bowl.” Buffalo and Detroit are the only non-expansion franchises that have not made the playoffs in the past decade. Detroit will be motivated to keep Buffalo winless and on course to match the Lions’ historic 0-16 mark set in 2008.
Shawne Merriman, signed by the Bills off waivers last week, was expected to make his debut but pulled up lame in his first practice and is likely to miss the game.
Keys for the Bills
• The line must protect quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Detroit has had its struggles on defense, but one thing it does well is rush the passer. The Lions have collected 24 sacks, led by prized rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who has had an instant impact with 6.5 sacks, 30 tackles and one interception. He even attempted an extra point last week. Buffalo called 51 passes in a close loss to Chicago. That won’t fly this week.
• The defense must create positive field position. Buffalo led the AFC with 28 interceptions last year but so far has collected a grand total of one, none by the secondary. The Lions will start backup Shaun Hill in place of Matt Stafford (shoulder). This week would be a good time to force some turnovers.
Keys for the Lions
• Running back Jahvid Best needs to have a big game. Buffalo ranks last against the run, allowing 178.2 yards per game. Best is enjoying a strong rookie campaign and can take the pressure off Hill by having a productive day running the football.
• Placekicker Dave Rayner needs to come through. This game figures to be close, and Rayner, an emergency replacement for Jason Hanson (sprained knee), hasn’t kicked in the NFL in two years. Ralph Wilson Stadium and its swirling November winds is no place to shake off the rust.
Neither team is as bad as the records would indicate. Buffalo has lost three consecutive games by a field goal while Detroit has four losses by five or fewer points. Edge to the Bills for playing at home — finally. Bills 27-20.