Five things to watch: Lions vs. Bills

By Matt Schoch
Special to The Detroit News

The Bills and Lions in December. It doesn’t get much better than this.

What does this mean for Brady Quinn’s broadcast career that he did Detroit and Arizona last week and now gets the Lions and the Bills?

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is dealing with a balky back entering Sunday's game at Buffalo.

What does it mean for us that we’re still going to watch?

But as always, there are reasons. Some of them good ones.

Here are five things to watch Sunday at Buffalo (1 p.m., FOX, WJR 760):

1. King of the Cassel?

The smart money is on Matthew Stafford starting his 126th straight regular-season game for the Lions.

But if his back is getting worse — and there are indications that it might be — the Lions could choose to sit down the franchise quarterback in favor of Matt Cassel, who has thrown six passes this season, all in the opener against the New York Jets.

This year could be the swan song for the 36-year-old, whose one appearance so far this season would be a career low.

2. Rookies ready?

The trends and injury report suggest safety Tracy Walker and offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby will get a heavy workload in Buffalo.

Walker’s advanced stats say he’s been an elite safety this year, although his snap count is too low to take much away from that. Maybe now there’s enough film on him now for play-callers like Buffalo’s Brian Daboll to expose the third-round pick.

More: Lions' rookie lineman Crosby expected to get first start Sunday

More: Rookie safety Walker making Lions gamble look good

The same could be true for Crosby, who will have to deal with defensive ends Trent Murphy and Shaq Lawson, a name bandied about by Lions’ fans before the 2016 NFL Draft, although Detroit took offensive tackle Taylor Decker at No. 16 and Lawson went 19.

3. Wrench Allen’s plans

Buffalo rookie quarterback Josh Allen has had tremendous success running the ball, but not so much through the air.

The Lions’ defense has allowed 4.8 yards on the ground per game to quarterbacks this season, the best in the league.

With the Bills pass-catching threats pretty non-threatening after the release of Kelvin Benjamin last week, something has to give in the Allen’s legs vs. Lions’ spies matchup.

Bills running back LeSean McCoy is on pace for his least productive NFL season, after two straight seasons of at least 1,100 yards rushing.

4. Which is the real McCoy?

After two straight 1,100-yard seasons in Buffalo, LeSean McCoy’s career appears to be on its last legs.

And just like he hasn’t helped your fantasy team as an injury fill-in over the years, Chris Ivory hasn’t been much help either, as Bills running backs have rushed for a league-low three rushing touchdowns — although wide receivers and quarterbacks have a league-high eight rushing TDs.

But “Shady” McCoy’s career high and only time he’s eclipsed 200 yards came against the Lions in 2013 when he rushed for 217 yards in a 34-20 win for Philadelphia.

He's listed as questionable for Sunday's game with a hamstring injury.

More: Wojo: Playoff odds puny, but Lions' tank isn't quite empty

More: Detroit News predictions: Lions vs. Bills

5. Scoreboard watching

Everything went right last week for the Lions in their last-ditch effort for a playoff berth.

In addition to Detroit winning out these last three games, hopeful Lions’ fans should be rooting this week for: Tennessee over the New York Giants, Baltimore over Tampa Bay, Chicago over Green Bay, Jacksonville over Washington, New Orleans over Carolina, the Los Angeles Rams over Philadelphia, and most importantly, Miami over Minnesota.

Keep hope alive?

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.