Preview of Bills @ Browns – Game #5
After two straight victories, the Browns now get to host a nationally televised game on Thursday. They are facing a tough team in the Bills, who are coming off a great victory over the Baltimore Ravens. The stadium will be electric, and they will be honoring Jim Brown at halftime; hopefully this is what Joe Banner and Alec Shiner envisioned the atmosphere to be (at First Energy Stadium) when they took over. The winner of this contest will be 3 – 2 and will be brimming with confidence going forward.
Offense: Brian Hoyer played mistake-free football versus the Bengals; that will have to continue if the team plans on succeeding. The Bills are coming off a game where they picked off Joe Flacco five times and also recovered a fumble. The home team can ill-afford to put their defense in a tough situation. I look forward to the signal caller getting multiple players involved in this contest; including dumping off the football to running backs when pressure is in his face. He was able to make a couple nice, deep throws last week – a replication of the sideline throw to Gordon would be great for this offense. It appears that Hoyer is using the slant route as a security blanket (much like Weeden did). Are the coaches setting up for a slant-and-go? The defensive secondary will definitely dictate that.
The Ravens only carried the football nine times for twenty-four yards against the Browns’ upcoming opponent. It is safe to say the home team will not employ Willis McGahee, Bobby Rainey, and Chris Ogbonnaya a lot. However, like last week, if they can be efficient in getting the “tough yards” and collect first downs – the fans will be happy. I anticipate the offense leaning on their passing game in order to run the football late in the contest. McGahee will primarily just be a rusher – while the other two have displayed a solid pass-catching ability. I would love to see one of the backs break a long run, and I know they have it in them. However, it will be up to many offensive components to excel greatly for that to occur.
I feel Josh Gordon can have a huge game on Thursday; the Bills have been susceptible to huge receiving days. Torrey Smith torched the away squad’s secondary; I look for the second-year wide out to do similar damage. If Bess eliminates his drops (he had another one on Sunday), this corps could become exceptional. I would like to see Benjamin get more opportunities for big gainers – once he gets the ball in his hands, he is dangerous. If Greg Little wants another shot at playing time, producing Thursday would be a good starting point. He was held without a catch – the University of North Carolina athlete has been demoted and will have to work hard against a Justin Rogers or Jim Leonhard to get the football his way. I would be surprised if Jordan Cameron does not have another exception outing. The tight end is one of the best in the league and is a great target for Hoyer – both on short and long routes.
Another tenacious front awaits the Browns’ offensive line on Thursday night. Marcell Dareus, Manny Lawson, and Alan Branch are a few of the guys who are expected to make it difficult for the home team’s offense. I really liked the pulling of linemen and getting blocks downfield; Joe Thomas, John Greco, and Oniel Cousins did a great job of leading the way for ball carriers. These types of running plays really suit the offense – I do not envision many of them, but for them to be effective when employed. In the passing game, I look for a couple of quick passes early (before Dareus can get to Hoyer). This can cause the opposition to alter their defensive strategy, thus allowing the Browns to change up play calls and sustain success.
Defense: The three-headed running attack of Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, and Tashard Choice will get several carries against this defense. As a result, Phil Taylor and Ismaa’ily Kitchen will have their work cut out for them to be disruptive up the middle. John Hughes filled in admirably last week for Billy Winn – he will have to duplicate that on the outside again, as both rushers can get to the edge quickly. None of the trio may single-handedly gash the Browns, but combined can rack up a good deal of yardage. The defensive front must limit these guys in the early downs, in order to put the opposing offense in passing situations during third downs.
When quarterbacks are pressured yet find an alley to run, the Browns’ defense has been giving up chunks of yards. This will be a challenge for the linebackers to limit E.J. Manuel during passing situations. Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger must get to the rookie quarterback before he finds alternatives – via either running or dumping off the ball. Both inside backers will be called upon as well; they will have to cover the three running backs and tight end Scott Chandler. D’Qwell Jackson and Craig Robertson will give up a play here and there, but I do not expect a long touchdown to be surrendered. This unit has done a great job of wrapping up and not allowing opponents to get additional yards. If they maintain this on Thursday night, I will feel confident in their chances of winning this contest.
The secondary has come from a “deficient area who could cost games” to a “solid part of a very good defense”. Now, they are facing a rookie quarterback who has thrown three interceptions this year. The defense must take advantage of Manuel’s inexperience and turn him over a few times. Joe Haden will be likely guarding Stevie Johnson and will probably limit the playmaker. That leaves Buster Skrine to slow down Robert Woods on the other side. The wide out is coming off a game where he found the end zone – the Browns cannot let this happen against them. I expect either of the safeties to be around the ball routinely on passing plays and (hopefully) secure a pick off. Chris Owens’ strip of Dalton’s arm was icing on the cake for the secondary last week – he contributes in other ways, and I am encouraged with him.
Special Teams: The Browns may want to consider Spencer Lanning pulling double duties if Billy Cundiff is not completely healthy. Hopefully that is not the case, but the two field goal misses really killed nice drives (including a two-minute drill with no timeouts). This game might come down to a kick, and the veteran has to get it done. Travis Benjamin did not have a spectacular game as a punt returner and was replaced by Davone Bess near the goal line. I look for him to be motived this week, as he does not want to be replaced for any reason.
Coaching: Chud and Turner and calling great games, and Ray Horton is doing his thing on the defensive side of the ball. There are no complaints surrounding this coaching staff – they have stated there are many more plays in their arsenal as well. I am excited to see what else the offense can do with the run and pass. Horton has been employing different blitz schemes and they have (for the most part) worked. I know more will follow, with similar success.
Prediction (My Record: 1 – 3): I have gone against the Browns the past two weeks and was wrong both times. This team is playing well together, and each unit is complementing one another. Thursday night games typically favor the home team (although that was not the case last week). Regardless, I believe the Browns keep it rolling and pull out a 27 – 17 win over the Bills.