The Buffalo Bills have high hopes for the upcoming 2012 campaign, but the team's performance so far in the preseason hasn't inspired much confidence.
Seeking to rebound from a lopsided loss, Chan Gailey's squad takes one last shot at obtaining a win before the real games start when the Bills travel to Ford Field for a bout with the Detroit Lions.
Buffalo has began this preseason with three straight defeats, the last two of which were of the blowout variety. After being dealt a 36-14 setback in Minnesota on Aug. 17, the Bills were routed at home by the Pittsburgh Steelers this past Saturday in a 38-7 throttling that began to raise questions about the team's progress.
Preseason results do often mean little, however, as the 1990 Bills proved by going 0-4 and reaching the Super Bowl that season. And there were some positive developments that took place last weekend despite the final outcome.
Buffalo's new-look defense stood its ground for the majority of the first half, forcing the Steelers to punt on their first five possessions and getting two sacks from prized free-agent pickup Mario Williams. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was able to orchestrate an 11-play, 98-yard touchdown drive near the end of the second quarter that gave his team a 14-7 lead, however, and the Steelers dominated from that point on.
The Bills' offense, on the other hand, continued to sputter. No. 1 quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed a mere 7-of-18 passes for 89 yards while working the entire first half, while backup contender Vince Young was a shaky 12-of-26 for 103 yards and threw two interceptions in relief.
Young, signed as a free agent during the offseason, was promptly released on Monday, one day after Buffalo acquired former Seattle starter Tarvaris Jackson in exchange for an undisclosed 2013 draft choice.
The Bills have produced a paltry 27 points in their three losses, the second- lowest scoring total in the league over that span, while Fitzpatrick has connected on just 48.8 percent (21-of-43) of his pass attempts in the preseason.
Buffalo, which owns the NFL's current longest streak of missing the playoffs at 12 consecutive seasons, hasn't gone winless in the preseason since the 2002 campaign.
The Lions, who ended an 11-year playoff drought after posting a 10-6 turnaround a season ago, will also be attempting to bounce back from a loss in their last effort. The team also received a scare in Saturday's 31-20 ousting by Oakland when quarterback Matthew Stafford left the contest with an injury to his left non-throwing hand.
Stafford merely sustained a broken blood vessel after taking a hit by Raiders defensive end Dave Tollefson early in the second quarter, however, and was back on the field for Tuesday's practice. The former No. 1 overall draft pick likely won't participate in the preseason finale, but is in no danger of missing the team's Week 1 opener against St. Louis.
The prognosis isn't as good for running back Jahvid Best, with the third-year speedster being placed on the reserve physically unable to perform list on Monday. He'll be sidelined until at least late October due to recurring symptoms from a concussion he suffered last season.
Detroit's banged-up backfield took another hit in the Oakland game when Kevin Smith, the club's projected opening-week starter, exited with an ankle sprain that will keep him out of Thursday's tilt. However, 2011 second-round selection Mikel Leshoure did make his long-awaited Lions debut on Saturday, though he managed only one yard on five carries.
Leshoure sat out his entire rookie season after tearing his Achilles tendon last August and was sidelined for the Lions' first two preseason tests of this year with a strained hamstring.
The Lions and Bills have faced off in the preseason 31 times previously, including every year since 2002. Detroit sports a 19-11-1 advantage in the series and has won the last four meetings, the most recent being a 16-6 triumph in Buffalo last summer.