- Associated Press - Saturday, October 4, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - When the Detroit Lions beat Buffalo 23-0 in the final game of the preseason, Bills backup quarterback Jordan Palmer threw three interceptions.

Buffalo cut Palmer almost immediately and brought in Kyle Orton to replace him.

Just over a month later, Orton is now Buffalo’s starter, having replaced EJ Manuel this week.

He’ll take the snaps Sunday at Detroit in a game the Bills hope will look nothing like that exhibition loss in late August. Orton is playing for his fourth team in four years, and he made only one start over the past two seasons with Dallas.

This weekend, he’ll face a Detroit team ranked No. 1 in the NFL in total defense. Orton went 4-0 against the Lions when he was a member of the Chicago Bears, beating Detroit twice in both 2005 and 2008.

“That was a long time ago when I was playing the Lions in the NFC North,” he said. “It’s certainly different now and scheme-wise it’s a lot different.”

The Bills (2-2) have not won a playoff game since the 1995 season, and the Lions (3-1) last did so four years before that. But both teams are trying to shake off their unimpressive recent history.

Buffalo beat Chicago and Miami to start this season before dropping its next two games. Manuel was intercepted twice last weekend by Houston, and now Orton will be tested by Ndamukong Suh and the Lions’ pass rush.

“I think it obviously starts in the front end, but really right now from a linebacker standpoint, they are playing very well and the defensive backs are playing extremely well,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said. “Being the No. 1-ranked defense, you need it from all 11 players. We’ve seen it before where if there’s a weakness in the defense, you can potentially be exposed. Right now, there are not many cracks in that defense, they’re playing at a very high level.”

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, meanwhile, threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in a win over the New York Jets last weekend.

Here are some things to watch when the Lions host Buffalo:

SCHWARTZ’S RETURN: Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was Detroit’s head coach for the past five years before being fired after a late collapse last season. Schwartz led the Lions to a playoff appearance in 2011, and he’ll have plenty of familiarity with Detroit’s offensive stars.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell doesn’t find the situation that unusual.

“It’s common in our profession, because guys are hired and fired so often, and frequently as well, you find that there are a lot of guys that are all across the league that have faced the same phenomenon that’s going on this weekend,” Caldwell said. “I think you probably have a sense of the fact that you may know a team a little bit more intimately, but it’s still a team game and some teams change dramatically from one year to the next. This team is a bit different than we were last year in a number of respects.”

MEGATRON’S HEALTH: Detroit WR Calvin Johnson has been dealing with an ankle problem and caught only two passes last weekend against the Jets. The Lions won anyway when Golden Tate caught eight passes for 116 yards.

Tate actually leads the Lions with 24 receptions.

ROOKIE THREAT: First-year WR Sammy Watkins aggravated a rib injury in that preseason game against the Lions, but he hasn’t missed a game in the regular season and has 17 catches for 197 yards for the Bills.

Detroit’s secondary has held up pretty well despite numerous injuries.

FOR KICKS: Alex Henery made a 51-yard field goal against the Jets after replacing Nate Freese as Detroit’s kicker. The Lions released Freese after he struggled through the first three games of the season.

Henery missed from 52 yards last weekend, but Detroit is hopeful he can provide some stability at that position.

BUSH’S TURN?: Detroit RB Reggie Bush has split time with Joique Bell in the backfield so far this season, but the Lions may need to rely on Bush a bit more now. Bell is recovering from a concussion.

Bush is averaging only 3.8 yards per carry, but he is third on the Lions with 18 catches.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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