This week the Detroit Lions will be on the road against the Buffalo Bills, who are 0-8 on the season. The Bills head coach is Chan Gailey, but Gailey doesn’t have any experience on the defensive side of the ball, so the Buffalo defense is mostly run by their defensive coordinator George Edwards. Like the Lions, this season for the Bills was going to be one of evaluation, player growth, and development, which is why Edwards, who has a history of developing players and maximizing talent, was hired.
The Bills defense, in terms of scheme, is a pretty simple one, at least compared to a lot of the other defenses the Lions have faced this year. Schematically, the Bills run a 3-4 defense that is more or less a zone blitz scheme. They will play a variation of formations including 4-3, 2-5, and so on but in general it is a 3-4 defense. As most of you who read these posts regularly know, a zone blitz scheme simply means that the blitz is brought from places that the offense doesn’t expect to come from and drop other players into coverage that offense doesn’t expect to drop back into coverage. The classic example of this would be blitzing with a linebacker and dropping a defensive end back into coverage.
Generally, the Bills will use some sort of zone blitz package, but often times they might simply bring people without dropping anyone back. Plus, you wouldn’t expect the Bills do to crazy, aggressive things that the Jets did last week. So, I wouldn’t expect see a nose tackle in pass coverage or a linebacker covering a wideout. The other aspect of their coverage scheme is that they play a lot of man coverage in the secondary, which means a specific corner sticks to a specific receiver on coverage. The Jets played a similar scheme last week. They put Darrelle Revis completely on Calvin Johnson while covering Nate Burleson with either Drew Coleman or Antonio Cromartie depending on where Burleson lined up. I would expect a similar thing this week where Terrence McGee will cover Calvin Johnson most if not all the time and Drayton Florence and Leodis McKelvin will take turns covering Burleson.
In terms of pressure, I would expect this game to be the easiest to handle for the offensive line. The Bufallo Bills have no real pass rushing threat, and even newly acquired Shawne Merriman won’t be playing after hurting his leg in his first practice with the Bills. In terms of numbers, the Bills only have 12 sacks on the season (compared to the Lions 24) and only have one pick on the season. They are, however, giving up the 6th least amount of passing yards with only 193 per game, but have given up 17 passing touchdowns (3rd worst in the league), and allow 63% of passes to be completed (12th worst in the league).
Their rushing defense is even worse. The Bills defense has been allowing on average 178 rushing yards per game, and give up 4.8 yards per carry, which is why teams rush the ball on the Bills as much as they can. Coming into the Lions game, Bill’s opponents have rushed the ball on them 37 times a game on average, which is ranked worst in the league. It should be interesting to see what offensive coordinator Scott Linehan’s gameplan will be this week. The Lions rank 5th worst in the league with only 23 rushing attempts per game, and pick up only 3.5 yards per carry (31st in NFL). Stats suggest that the Lions should run the ball, but the Leos might be far better off passing most of the time.
Overall, we have to realize that this defense is in a transition and really doesn’t have the quality of players needed to run the scheme they are running. A lot of the starters on this defense are either waiver wire pickups, career backups, or aging players that simply don’t fit at the position they are playing. In my opinion, this is the weakest defense the Lions will face this season and it comes a week after facing one of the toughest defenses in the NFL in the Jets, so the Lions should be well prepared. I expect a good day out of all Lions players and a big score by the time this game is done. The question isn’t really about how much the Lions offense can score, but whether the Bills offense with quite a few interesting pieces can keep up.