A couple of teams that appear to be going nowhere in 2018 will brave the December cold in Week 15 as the Buffalo Bills host the Detroit Lions. Game time is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 16, at New Era Field in Buffalo, New York. Fans in local markets will be able to watch the game on Fox.
Oddsmakers currently list the Bills as 2.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 38.5 points. Be sure to check out all of the Week 15 NFL betting odds.
Recently, the Bills have looked like a team that’s ready to finish the season strong. But that was before they suffered a pair of tough losses the past two weeks. First, it was a dropped pass by Charles Clay that derailed a potential game-winning drive against the Dolphins. Last week, it was the Buffalo defense conceding a game-winning drive, as the Bills were outscored 14-3 in the 4th quarter of a home loss to the Jets.
Those losses have dropped the Bills to 4-9, guaranteeing them a losing season one year after breaking their long playoff drought. However, despite plenty of shortcomings, the Bills don’t show any signs of giving up on the season. With two home games and two division rivalry games during the final three weeks of the season, look for the Bills to give an honest effort to close out the season.
The Lions, meanwhile, snapped out of their funk last week with a road win over the Cardinals. Of course, it wasn’t exactly a convincing effort. Detroit was out-gained and won comfortably only because their defense scored a touchdown. However, it was still a nice change for the Lions, who had previously lost five of their last six games.
At 5-8, a playoff spot is actually not impossible for the Lions, as most of the other NFC wild-card contenders lost last week. However, they’d have to find a way to win their final three games and get a lot of help. If the Lions can win this week, a home game against the Vikings and a road game with the Packers are both winnable games, so their season isn’t over yet. If nothing else, avoiding a losing season would be a nice accomplishment for first-year coach Matt Patricia, so the Lions should have plenty of motivation late in the year.
While I agree that the Bills are making progress late in the year, I’m not comfortable picking them as a favorite after I got burned by them last week. Buffalo should have won the last two weeks, and the fact that they couldn’t close out those games makes me nervous to swallow 2.5 points in their favor. I’m not saying I like the Lions, I just feel more comfortable with the underdog in this matchup.
Admittedly, the Detroit offense is a mess right now. They’ve scored more than 20 points just once in their last seven games. With Golden Tate being traded and Marvin Jones being lost to injury, Matthew Stafford is having a world of problems. He’s coming off arguably the worst game of his career last week in Arizona. Hitting the road for a game in cold weather against a solid Buffalo defense doesn’t seem like it’ll help Stafford turn things around.
The good news for the Lions is that in cold weather games, running the ball is usually more important than throwing. At the moment, there’s a chance Kerryon Johnson will be able to return after missing three straight games. His presence would be huge against a stout Buffalo run defense. However, the Lions still have the likes of LeGarrette Blount, Zach Zenner, and Theo Riddick to plug away at the running game.
On the other side, Buffalo’s running game has been lacking all season. Quarterback Josh Allen is currently the team’s leading rusher. That’s not a good sign, especially since he missed a few games due to injury. LeSean McCoy, who’s only averaging 3.3 yards per carry this year, is questionable to play Sunday after leaving last week’s game with an injury. Without McCoy available, there’s a good chance the Bills will struggle to run the ball outside of Allen’s scrambles.
The Bills simply can’t get in a position in which they have to throw the ball, regardless of the weather. Allen’s accuracy is nowhere close to NFL level. He’s also thrown two interceptions in each of the last two games. We also can’t forget that Buffalo’s offensive line has been a problem area for the team all season, which doesn’t make it any easier on the young quarterback.
In fairness, Detroit’s defense is nothing special. However, Patricia is familiar with the Bills from his days in New England. The Lions also have a formidable pass rush that was able to bother another rookie quarterback last week. Given Buffalo’s problems running the ball and keeping their quarterback protected, Detroit’s defense will have a chance to play well this week.
In the end, this game has all the makings of a defensive slugfest. In fact, taking the under on 38.5 points isn’t a bad bet. Frankly, I don’t have much faith in either offense to score points. But I think the Lions have a better pass rush, which could help them win the turnover battle. Detroit also has a better chance to run the ball with some consistency. That’s enough for me to pick the underdog Lions on the road.