Detroit Lions (1-2) vs Buffalo Bills (1-2)

Preventing injuries and getting the roster set are the top priorities for the Detroit Lions as they head into the final preseason game of the season. Lions' insider Mike Fowler previews Detroit's last chance to work out the kinks before the regular season begins.

ALL TIME RECORD: Series tied 3-3-1
ALL TIME PRESEASON RECORD: Lions lead 13-8-1th
LAST MEETING: (Regular Season): Buffalo 24-Detroit 17 (October 27, 2002)
LAST MEETING: (Preseason): Buffalo 22-Detroit 16 (August, 29, 2002)

(ALLEN PARK) - Preventing injuries and getting the roster set are the top priorities for the Detroit Lions as they head into the final preseason game of the season.

Coach Steve Mariucci is likely to play his first unit only a few series or less while concentrating on watching backups and fringe players in their last chance to make an impression ahead of Tuesday's cut to the 53 man roster.

Detroit cut six players yesterday to get down to the 65 man limit, however, the team was alloted nine NFL Europe exemptions. Detroit released linebacker Stevie Baggs, defensive backs Julius Curry and Abdul Howard, guard Josh Lovelady, defensive tackle Ahmad Childress and wide receiver Tim Van Zant.

Detroit got some disappointing news when it was learned that guard Matt Joyce, the team's primary backup at several position would be lost for 4-6 weeks after having undergone arthroscopic surgery on his elbow. Detroit believes Joyce will only be out 2-4 weeks, but medical sources say six weeks is the more likely prognosis. Joyce becomes a candidate for the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which would sideline him for the first six games of the season.

"We had Matt Joyce have his elbow scoped for loose bodies, " explained coach Mariucci. "He got them out and he is listed at 2-4 weeks. We're hoping it is the short end of that. Then he'll be good to go."

Meanwhile, Mariucci continued to hint that Mike McMahon, the team's backup quarterback could start Thursday's contest. "We have not decided or determined our starters yet. We [will discuss that] tomorrow and determine how long our guys are going to play. Again, we do anticipate Mike playing at some point with the ones."

Special team's coach Chuck Priefer indicated that he is not overly concerned with the teams defensive performance covering kicks, primarily because he is playing several rookies in the unit. He was, however, disappointed that some veterans are being flagged for what clearly are mental mistakes.

"Well it always concerns you, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it," said Priefer. "If that starts in about two weeks and they're doing that, then I'm going to start losing sleep over it. We're trying to find a roster, we're trying to find guys who can play and tune up some of our individual skills. Yes, it concerns you, it always concerns you in the sense that you are looking at kids and they are making those mistakes. Why are they making them? The penalties last week, that concerns me, obviously, because some of those penalties were committed by non-rookie guys. You can't commit six penalties (on special teams) in a game, you just can't do it."

Priefer indicated that Eddie Drummond is still "his guy" when it comes to punts and kickoffs. Drummond said he felt that his shaky performance was the result of rustiness.

Detroit's run defense will get a good test early on from the presence of second year back Willis McGahee and veteran Travis Henry. Henry, a former 1,300 yard performer was not happy when the Bills drafted McGahee in the first round two years ago and lately rumors have been floating that McGahee asked to be traded if he was not named the starter, something the second-year pro denied. Still, he is the more likely of the two to get the bulk of the carries. McGahee appears to have a slight lead for the starting job.

Buffalo will send out newly signed backup Shane Matthews for extended playing time. Matthews was signed after the Bills lost backups J.P. Losman and Travis Brown to injuries. Matthews is hoping to pickup the offense and give the Bills a comfort level behind veteran Drew Bledsoe.

Detroit's pass rush could get a boost from a Bills' offensive line that is in flux after a series of injuries and position switches.

Defensive end James Hall says that he will be going full speed for every snap that he is in the ball game because, for one thing, that is the only way to avoid injury.

"If you play at any speed other (than full speed) that's probably when you're going to get hurt. Coach Mariucci has emphasized keeping guys healthy for the beginning of the season."

Kick-off is slated for 7:00 P.M.

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