Please, please someone make sure Derek Anderson does not show up for this game! The Browns are riding a modest two-game winning streak, and have already matched last year’s win total with four games remaining. Over their last 16 games, Cleveland is 9-7. Buffalo, on the other hand, continues to scuffle. Let’s hope both teams have progressed past last year’s 6-3 crap-fest, and that the Browns’ QB—whomever it may be—completes more than two passes!
Both of these teams are similar on offense in terms of yards and points per game: Buffalo has a slight edge in points (20.3 to 19.1), yards (311.8 to 305.4), and passing yards (203.9 to 194.0), but the Browns have the slight edge in rushing (111.4 to 107.9). Likewise, it’s close on defense: Cleveland has the slight edge in yards-allowed per game (350.4 to 378.1), but Buffalo is better against the pass (207.2 to 231.3). On paper, the Browns have two big advantages: points allowed per game (19.9 to Buffalo’s 27.8), and rushing defense, where Cleveland allows just 119.1 and Buffalo allows a staggering 170.9 rushing yards per game. Read that again. Hmmm… I wonder how the Browns can win this game…? Without further ado…
The Browns Will Win If…
Craig: …they play the same brand of football they played a week ago. The Browns need to continue to play great defense and eliminate self-inflicted wounds. If they can do that, they should be able to beat up on a team that is nowhere near as good as the Dolphins were defensively. It would also be nice to get the 30-some yards that Peyton Hillis needs to get over 1000 for the year. Icing on the cake of a big win, should the Browns get it done.
Scott: …Reggie Hodges keeps doing what he’s doing and Mike Bell can step up and help take the load off of Peyton Hillis. The weather is going to be brutal – think last year’s game against the Bills – and it will come down to ball control and field position. It’s not going to be pretty; Vegas agrees by giving this one the lowest over/under total of all games this week. But since when do the Browns need to win pretty? There should be a whole lot of running of the football and, as good as he is, Hillis should not have to do it alone. Mike Bell will need to step up for at least this one week and give him some time to recuperate while the Browns move the football in the right direction. Hodges will then be asked to ensure that the Bills offense has their work cut out for them on as many possessions as possible. He’s coming off of a monster week with two punts inside of the 20-yard line, one down at the one-yard line. Thirteen punts inside the 10-yard line on the season can’t be wrong; let’s get that number to at least 15 after this week.
DP: …they don’t over-think it on offense. Peyton Hillis. Peyton Hillis. PEYTON HILLIS! The Bills are the worst rushing defense in the league by plenty. They give up over 170 yards per game. If the Browns come out pass-crazy in December-windy Buffalo, I will rip my hair out. The Browns’ defense showed last week that they can slow down a middling offense, and according to our guest blogger the Bills are suffering through some injury issues on the offensive line. So, I think Cleveland can hold the Bills to a low enough score total to give themselves a chance to win. So, what’s it going to come down to? The Browns’ rushing attack. I don’t want to see Jake Delhomme trying to win this game in the air. I want to see the Browns come out and exploit the Bills’ biggest weakness—stopping the run—early and often. This should be the kind of game that Peyton Hillis was made for: 34 degrees, rain and snow likely, and 15-20 MPH wind. Brian Daboll, if you’re surfing the web right now, DO NOT TRY TO HAVE DELHOMME THROW THE BALL ALL OVER THE PLACE!!
Rick: …they control the line of scrimmage. The weather is going to be a big time factor in this one, and I think that favors the Browns. Buffalo is terrible at stopping the run. Just what the doctor ordered for Hillis to eclipse the 1000 yard mark for the season. Provided he holds onto the ball. He has been known to put it on the ground at times this year, and we shall see if the cold and snow effect his running style or how he protects the ball. The weather should also slow things done just a bit, which should help John "the turnstile" St. Clair as well. I think the Browns offensive line controls the game. The Bills have had some big games from their offense, but most of that has come via the passing game. With the way the secondary has been playing and the forecast I like the Browns chances of stopping Buffalo.
Andrew: …they shut down Buffalo’s running game. That’s going to be the key for me. Buffalo has some weapons in their passing game with Stevie Johnson and Lee Evans, plus Ryan Fitzpatrick has had a bit of a resurgent season. But since trading Marshawn Lynch to Seattle, Buffalo has relied heavily on Fred Jackson in their running game. In Buffalo’s 2 wins, Jackson ran for 133 and 116 yards. Those are his only 100+ yard rushing games. If you can slow down Fred Jackson and keep him from allowing Buffalo’s offense to keep their defense off the field, I think you have a really good chance to win this game. And on offense, just keep it on the ground. Don’t let Jake Delhomme lose this game.
TD: …Jake doesn’t make the killer mistake throws, especially considering the expected nasty weather in Buffalo. Its an on-going theme now that Jake Delhomme is the QB. This game has Peyton Hills written all over it. I fully expect to see him get at least 25 carries and run right behind the great Lawrence Vickers for four quarters. Defensively, its pretty simple; key on the run – Bills RB Fred Jackson – and force Ryan Fitzpatrick to beat you with his arm. While the kid from Harvard is playing well, he is still Ryan Fitzpatrick. One can only hope we see a repeat weather-wise of the great December game between the Browns and the Bills in Cleveland in 2007. That was some fun wasn’t it?
Now, for the other side of the coin. Matt Warren is the Editor of Buffalo Rumblings, covering the Buffalo Bills for SB Nation. Their discussion of last year’s game as possibly the worst-ever is a must-read. Without further ado…
The Bills Will Win If…
…Peyton Hillis misses the team charter and gets stuck in a snow storm while driving to Buffalo. Seriously. The Buffalo Bills run defense is last in the league by a wide margin – something like 25 yards a game. If the Bills are going to win this game they are going to have to solve their run D problem fast and down to their third-string linebackers in some spots.
On offense, they are going to need a minor miracle just to get through the game on the offensive line. One starter is out in center Geoff Hangartner. The normal sixth man who would step in for him, Kraig Urbik, just got placed on injured reserve. The Bills are going to have an undrafted free agent starting at RG with a street free agent at RT and a guy at center who hasn’t played there in the NFL.
With all that being said Ryan Fitzpatrick’s nickname has become "Fitzmagic" and this week would be a good time for him to pull a rabbit out of a hat.
What say, there, fuzzy britches?