Last season, this match-up on primetime would have made every NFL fan turn and wretch. In 2013? Not quite as heave-worthy. The Bills bring their rookie quarterback to Cleveland, where the Browns are surging. Time to preview this Thursday Night game and kick off week five!
(2-2) Buffalo Bills at
(2-2) Cleveland Browns
The Bills are still a mix of awkward excitement and utter despair. I can only hope that someday I will have the ability to predict their madness. Fred Jackson still leading the team in rushing yards, but fantasy aggravator C.J. Spiller is expected to play with an ankle injury. Stevie Johnson is explosive but inconsistent as a wide receiver. His drops this season have not been very timely. The Bills’ offensive line seems to always be in flux, and that’s not going to bode well for them against the Browns.
Cleveland’s defense ranks eighth in points per game, with an intimidating line-up of play-makers like linebackers Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard, a shut-down corner in Joe Haden, and a load in the middle of the line in Philip Taylor. With Rookie Barkevious Mingo as athletic as advertised coming off the edge, this unit may can cause major issues for opponents.
Brian Hoyer inherited the Browns’ starting QB job when second-year pro Brandon Weeden’s thumb was injured. Now’s tallied two consecutive wins, meaning Weeden may stay on the bench for the forseeable future. Hoyer, a long-time back-up in the league, has had solid performances in his two starts in 2013. And he’s visibly progressed. They might have traded away their “star” running back, but the Browns still have left tackle Joe Thomas protecting Hoyer. And tight end Jordan Cameron has MAD UPS, yo. That’s translated into five receiving Tee Diddy’s on the season. With all the uncertainty surrounding receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little (will they be traded or not), the Browns’ offense has a bright spot with Cameron.
Across the line will be a Bills defense with interesting pieces. Kiko Alsonso is a strong early candidate for defensive rookie of the year. Tackle Marcell Dareus and end Mario Willams have made impacts this season, but they can’t disguise a Bills secondary that is still awfully banged up. They picked off Joe Flacco five times on Sunday, but I don’t know if they’ll have worked themselves up into a frenzied pitch to play the Browns. Who knows.
For all the positives I promoted, let’s make no mistake, these two teams + the almost certain weaksauce that comes along with Thursday nighters could = a pile of steamy, sloppy, penalty-laden garbage, with a few turnovers strewn about. But I’ll be watching all night baby! Because I’m crazy like that.
Enjoy the game everyone.