“Buffalove” vs. “Believeland.” Two cities just 194 miles apart from each other that rest on the banks of the Lake Erie will field two surprise 2-2 teams in a primetime Thursday night matchup. With five combined professional sports teams between the two cities and only two championships to boast, it is fair to say that fans from both locations deserve better. Thursday night will provide a litmus test for two squads eager to display talent superior to any preconceived notions. As Bills fans can vividly recall the Bills vs. Browns “Snow Bowl” game in 2007 and the “Monday Night Mishap” in 2008, we all know that anything can happen when the Bills meet the Browns.
Here are three things to watch for in in Thursday night’s showdown between the Bills and Browns.
Good Stevie vs. Bad Stevie
With all due respect to Stevie Johnson, considering he has been battling a hamstring injury, the Bills absolutely need Stevie to show up against Cleveland. This is much easier said than done since SJ13 will be battling against the next emerging shut down cornerback in Joe Haden. In their Week 4 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, Haden held A.J. Green to a stat line of seven catches for 51 yards. Perhaps one of the most effective ways for Stevie to take advantage of Haden is to operate out of the slot since Haden works on the outside. Regardless of where Stevie lines up on Thursday night, the Bills offense will need to see more of the Stevie that logged eight catches for 111 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers as opposed to the wide out that posted one catch for -1 yards against Baltimore.
Bills Answer For Jordan Cameron
With offensive coordinator Norv Turner transforming another diamond into the rough at the tight end position, it is the Bills’ problem this week to slow down Cameron. The Browns primary passing threat has already registered five touchdowns and 12.0 YPC for a surging offensive unit. With an already depleted secondary, the Bills will experience a severe matchup problem if Jairus Byrd, Leodis McKelvin, and Aaron Williams are all unable to suit up.
Activate The Running Game
Entering Week 5, the Bills have the second ranked rushing attack in the NFL logging 152 YPG. With C.J. Spiller listed as questionable and Fred Jackson landing on the injury report as probable, the Bills running game could experience difficulty against a stout Cleveland run defense. The Bills have been fortunate to see a productive running game thus far, but with a banged up Spiller and Jackson expect productivity in the run department to slide. Don’t expect EJ Manuel to transform into a running back, but if more read option plays are called, Manuel can ultimately help himself in the passing game when keeping the defense honest by taking off with quarterback keepers.
This game is a toss up and understandably so. The Browns are riding a two-game win streak and have home field advantage while the Bills are limping in with a wounded team full of game-time decisions. The Bills secondary desperately needs McKelvin to return and hopefully neutralize some of the Browns passing options. On the flip side, the Bills backfield would receive a boost if Spiller can play since he can still provide matchup nightmares even if he is only 85%. In a close matchup, I have a difficult time picking against the home squad but ultimately I am not sold on Brian Hoyer and the Browns backfield.
Bills win another tight battle 26-20.