1. Bring out the best Oruwariye.
Jeff Okudah is likely not going to be able to play on Thursday, due to concussion protocol. That leaves a gaping hole in the secondary that it’s going to be up to Amani Oruwariye to fill. That very thought gives most Lions fans existential dread. This is complex for a few reasons.
a. Oruwariye attracts penalties like magnets. He had six against Minnesota. Why is this a problem? Clete Blakeman is officiating, and his crew averages three more penalties per game (18) than anyone else in the NFL.
b. He had 6 interceptions last year, tied for third in the NFL. If he can recapture that magic, he may have the opportunity to feast on a Buffalo offense that likes to live on the edge.
c. Oruwariye allowed SO many yards last time he started, he’s been benched since.
This is a long winded way of saying that the entire outcome of Thursday’s game could hinge on which version of Oruwariye shows up. If it’s the 2021 version, the Lions could be fine. If it’s the one we’ve seen so far this season, we’re in trouble. It’s up to DC Aaron Glenn to come up with a scheme that best serves his talents and minimizing his weaknesses.
2. Force turnovers.
Fun fact: the Bills have the third most turnovers in the league. For a team that’s as good as Buffalo, that’s a major liability. We’ve known Josh Allen to be reckless before, but this is a new level for them. In addition, Allen is injured, which has imposed a definite ceiling on his play the last few weeks. The moral here is simple: grab the low hanging fruit. Yes, Okudah is injured, but he only has one of Detroit’s eight interceptions. Kerby Joseph, DeShon Elliot, and even Aidan Hutchinson have gotten in on the fun. Provided the Lions defense executes the game plan and demonstrates the vision they’ve used to get to the ball previously, they’ve got a chance to steal not just the football, but the entire game.
3. Make the second-string O-Line play like the first.
It is as it always has been – the Lions offensive line is injured. Frank Ragnow is still dealing with some of his toe issues, Jonah Jackson is in concussion protocol, and Evan Brown left the game on Sunday with an ankle injury. Assuming they don’t play, Logan Stenberg and Dan Skipper can fill in at guard, or Tommy Kraemer can take one of those spots. There’s still a hole at center though. Essentially, the O-Line is going to be patchwork on Thursday. Luckily, the Buffalo pass rush is also depleted. Two edge rushers and a linebacker are listed on their injury report, so this may be a battle of the second stringers. However, it doesn’t matter who you’re facing, or how far down the depth chart you are – once you’re on the field, you have one job. This squad has done a great job this season fighting above their weight class, and it could not be more important right now to continue that trend.
This Lions team is hot right now. This Buffalo team is watching their hopes for a top playoff seed go up in smoke. This could be a benchmark win for the Lions, or it could be another embarrassing Thanksgiving loss. It’ll probably not be either. This’ll be a loss, but in a sport with very few moral victories, a close game here could be one for Dan Campbell and Co. Bills Win 28-24.