Just a real quick hitter about this afternoon’s Cleveland Browns-Buffalo Bills showdown.
The AFC North is a tangled mess:
Every game is so important with everyone bunched up like this, and with so few games remaining. That is one reason why this is a game that the Browns need to win. A second reason is that three of their last four games are against Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Baltimore. Those are three games that will test this team. They can’t afford to give up this game against the Bills.
Buffalo is certainly no pushover. They beat the Detroit Lions. Last week, in a road home game, they took the New York Jets to the woodshed. Yes, I realize that it’s the Jets, but Buffalo didn’t play down to the competition; they dominated, winning 43-23. Still, they are not on par with the Colts, and this game doesn’t have the enormous impact that the Bengals and Ravens games have, and this is why the Browns must win.
But, like everyone else in Northeast Ohio, I’m worried about the Bills defensive line. If the Browns have an Achilles heel, it’s that. A strong defensive line disrupts the Browns offense in a major way. Of course, never have we faced those kinds of lines with Josh Gordon at wideout. Last week, his presence stretched the Atlanta defense out a bit and allowed the Browns to run again. He still finished the game with 120 yards. Will defenses have to compensate even more than Atlanta did?
I do think the Browns will win this game, but my eyes will be on the line of scrimmage whenever they get the ball. Another game won and lost in the trenches. The question is, Can the Browns utilize their other assets to give their trench-fighters a chance? That will be up to Kyle Shanahan, and I feel confident in the coach to do so.
Fans, of course, will be watching Brian Hoyer, and this is not a good matchup for him based on similar tests this season. He doesn’t seem to flourish under sack pressure. Many people are already calling for Johnny Manziel. No matter how Hoyer does, it’s not going to change the mind of anyone in the Manziel Fan Club. A bad game will have the same old conversation stirred up, a good game will be frustration by Manziel fans that they have to wait yet another week to see their guy take the helm.
I will also be watching Sammy Watkins, a small tear trickling down my cheek when I remember that the Browns could have drafted him instead of second-stringer Justin Gilbert. I’m not crowning Watkins the next Jerry Rice, he’s still a rookie and playing like one, but just think of what you’d have at wide receiver: Gordon, Watkins, Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, Miles Austin, and Travis Benjamin. With a backfield of Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. That is weaponized, son!
But they did not. They’ll have two mid-round draft picks next year so…..NO! I REFUSE TO TALK ABOUT THE 2015 DRAFT! For once, we have a season to talk about still. The offseason can wait.
Browns take care of business today, that’s my call. I am believing in this team. I’m not sure how much, but enough that I don’t expect them to roll over just because the Bills have a tough front four. The Bills can be up and down the same way that the Browns can. With Buffalo coming off a big divisional win last week, maybe they respond the same way Cleveland did after their big divisional wins: By choking the next game. (See: 2014 Browns games vs Jacksonville and Houston)
As for the rest of the division, Cincinnati is taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs, at 2-9, are still fighting for a playoff position, I kid you not. Atlanta and New Orleans are two games in front with five games to go. Of course, the Bengals are already in first and fighting to hold on.
Pittsburgh is also playing the NFC South, the aforementioned first-place Saints. In Pittsburgh. The Saints record on the road this season? 1-4. They’ve lost three straight.
And finally, the Ravens are at home taking on the once-AFC-darling San Diego Chargers. Both teams are 7-4, both the winners of two straight. Both are in second place in their division.
All four AFC North games are at 1:00 ET.