Buffalo Bills (2-3) at Detroit Lions (0-5)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker
SERIES: 8th meeting, series is tied 3-3-1. Teams last met in 2002, a 24-17 Bills victory in Buffalo. The teams have played some historic games. A 21-21 tie on Dec. 10, 1972 was the last professional football game played at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, the famed "Rock Pile." On Thanksgiving Day in 1976, Bills Hall of Fame running back O.J. Simpson ran for a then-NFL record 273 yards in Detroit, including TD runs of 48 and 12 yards. But the Lions won 27-14 on the strength of two Greg Landry TD passes to TE David Hill.
2006 RANKINGS: Bills: offense 30th (19th rush, 29th pass); defense 15th (19th rush, 12th pass). Lions: offense 17th (32nd rush, 6th pass); defense 28th (14th rush, 30th pass)
PREDICTION: Bills 23-16
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Lions have home-field advantage and a strong run defense in their corner. Beyond that, they need some help. Detroit could be without three starting offensive linemen and possibly No. 1 WR Roy Williams (probable), which could make moving the ball with any consistency very difficult. The Bills have improved their run defense, but the Lions still need to stick with RB Kevin Jones longer than they have been and give him a chance to help control the clock and lend a hand to their beleaguered defense. Detroit has stopped the run well and could make life difficult for Buffalo RB Willis McGahee, but the secondary continues to be a major source of concern. For the Bills, the biggest key is playing tough and keeping the game close enough to allow the Lions to be their own worst enemy -- Detroit has been outscored 47-13 in the fourth quarter this season.
FAST FACTS: Bills: Coach Dick Jauron played 58 games for Detroit from 1973-78 and was the team's interim coach for the final five games last season. Lions: Are an NFL-worst 21-64 the past five years. ... QB Jon Kitna is on pace for the second 4,000-yard passing season in franchise history (Scott Mitchell, 4,338 in 1995.)
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
The Bills granted free safety Troy Vincent his release, allowing him to become a free agent. Vincent, 35, hopes to hook up with another team before this season is finished.
Vincent injured his left hamstring in the regular-season opener at New England, but it was not a season-ending injury. With the Bills already holding a roster spot at safety for Matt Bowen, who broke a bone in his lower leg in the preseason, they elected to place Vincent on injured reserve and re-signed second-year pro Jim Leonhard. The move also paved the way for rookie Ko Simpson to start at free safety.
Meanwhile, Vincent was given the rare designation of injured reserve "minor." When he became healthy and could pass a physical, the Bills were obligated to release him and make him eligible to sign with any other team this year except Buffalo. Vincent will also be given his full base salary of $2.6 million by the Bills.
The move remains controversial since Buffalo is thin at safety with Bowen still
not ready to play.
Meanwhile, Vincent is healthy. He has 1,000 career tackles in 15 seasons and leads all active defensive backs with 47 interceptions.
The Tigers' amazing run during the American League season, their upset of the Yankees in the division playoffs and their ensuing trip to the World Series might be having an impact on their neighbors at Ford Field.
The Lions, who play right across the street from the Tigers' Comerica Park in downtown Detroit, say they are impressed -- and encouraged -- by the Tigers' unexpected turnaround in 2006.
"After watching the Tigers clinch and watching Kenny Rogers pour champagne on a cop's head, that's what it's all about," said cornerback Dre' Bly.
"The fans here in Detroit just go crazy, go nuts after years of the Tigers struggling and then getting to the playoffs and turning things around. That's what it's all about. I truly do believe this is the best sports town.
"The fans have been very cooperative and patient and have supported us ever since I've been here, and they're just waiting for a winner, man. And you see once you turn things around, the support you really get from the fans. They've been very supportive of the Tigers, the Pistons and the Red Wings. Now they're just waiting on us."
Although the Pistons and Red Wings have had success in recent seasons, the Tigers and Lions have lagged behind. Just three years ago, the Tigers lost a near-record 119 games and even last year had a losing record.
The Lions have struggled even more, with losing records in each of the past five years and a cumulative record of 21-64 in five-plus seasons under president Matt Millen. But quarterback Jon Kitna said he can see the Lions eventually getting the same kind of reception the Tigers are getting from Detroit fans.
"You just know that that's how it's going to be when we start winning, too," Kitna said. "That's what you like. I mean, everybody loves a winner. The Tigers ... it's awesome what's going on; the city's electric, and that's what we hope to establish."
With their current 0-5 record and a number of injuries forcing lineup changes
this week, it might be awhile before the Lions join the Tigers as the toast of