NFL Pre-Season Week 4: Detroit Lions (3-0) at Buffalo Bills (1-2)
Venue: Ralph Wilson Stadium – Orchard Park, N.Y.
Date/Time: Thursday, September 1 – 6:30 p.m. (Eastern)
TV: Blacked out locally (WBNG 12 in Binghamton will carry the game live), Online at NFL.com (must buy preseason package), WKBW-Channel 7 in Buffalo, WTVH-Channel 5 in Syracuse, and WHAM-Channel 13 in Rochester will air the game on tape delay Friday at 8 p.m.
Radio: WGRF 96.9 FM (Buffalo), WXYT 97.1 FM (Detroit)
Last time out: The Bills jumped out to a 17-0 lead and eventually defeated Jacksonville 35-32 in overtime on Saturday. Also on Saturday, the Lions absolutely beat down the New England Patriots (yay!) 34-10.
Playing Time for Starters: Chan Gailey has indicated the starters will play somewhere in the range of 6-10 plays. The Lions starters are expected to play a series or two.
What to watch for (Bills):
- Left tackle. Demetrius Bell looked much better in the Jacksonville game than he did in the first two preseason games, but he apparently has not locked up the starting job, so look for Andy Levitre to play at bit at tackle tonight. Chan Gailey says he’ll announce the starter at some point this weekend.
- Wide receiver. Gailey has some really tough decisions to make with ths group by Saturday, with a bunch of pretty good players fighting for roster spots. Unfortunately, half of those guys are hurt and won’t play tonight (Roscoe Parrish, Donald Jones, Naaman Roosevelt, and Felton Huggins all will likely not play) With those guys out, this could be a golden opportunity for guys like Craig Davis, Ruvell Martin, or undrafted rookie Kamar Aiken to maybe steal a roster spot. Gailey is also looking for a #2 WR to go opposite Stevie Johnson, and will make his decision this weekend.
- Making their preseason debuts tonight (possibly) will be a pair of linebackers: new acquisition Kirk Morrison (wearing the #58 left behind by the immortal Aaron Maybin) and third-round draft pick Kelvin Sheppard. Both will be looking to make a case for regular-season playing time.
- Outside linebacker. Chris Kelsay and Shawne Merriman will be back as starters tonight, but the battle behind them should be fierce. Danny Batten, Antonio Coleman, Jammie Kirlew, and undrafted rookie Robert Eddins are all fighting for backup roles and roster spots.
- Robert Eddins. Eddins has been impressive this preseason and really has done just about everything he possibly could do to make the roster – a monumental challenge for any undrafted rookie this year thanks to the loss of summer OTAs and minicamps. Eddins’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed:
“(He’s been) completely surprising,” said Gailey. “I had no idea really who he was. The scouting staff said, ‘Hey we need to look at this guy, he’s got something to him.’ And they were right. The guy has really done a great job.”
Gailey doesn’t give empty or meaningless praise in the press, so you better believe Eddins has a chance to sneak onto this roster. Antonio Coleman, who actually made the team as an undrafted rookie last season, could see his spot taken by Eddins.
- Johnny White. Unbelievably, the rookie running back – last seen being carted out of Mile High Stadium on a body board – is going to play tonight. We’ll see how much work he gets.
- Shawn Nelson. The troubled tight end has barely been on the practice field at all this preseason, but he’ll get a chance to save his roster spot tonight. He’ll probably need a fantastic performance to convince Gailey to keep him around.
- Justin Rogers. The rookie cornerback finally got on the field against Jacksonville after dealing with a injury through camp. He’ll get a lot of time tonight to prove he deserves to stick around.
What to Watch For (Lions):
- The Lions have had a great preseason so far, and are raring to get going with the regular season. Their goals for tonight:
1) No one gets injured
2) See #1
- One battle to watch is at running back, where the Lions have a bunch of guys fighting to be the backup to Jahvid Best.
- This game is not sold out and blacked out locally, so it’s going to be tough to watch it live if you’re in the Buffalo/Syracuse area. However, WKBW-Channel 7 in Buffalo WTVH-Channel 5 in Syracuse, WHAM-Channel 13 in Rochester will all air the game Friday at 8 p.m.
Be sure to follow along with us tonight by checking out our quarter-by-quarter reactions and following along with us on Twitter (@BuffLowDown).