6-2 vs 2-6. One team devoid of mega media stars, the other loaded with them. One with expectations heading into the season, the other without. One with a highly heralded, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback QB from a power school expected to be a star and the other with a highly drafted QB from a non power 5 conference unloved for the most part by pundits, draftniks and stat geeks.
Both teams with disgruntled fan bases, one only in undercurrents of occasional negativity and the other in full throat. Both teams residing on the shores of the savage Lake Erie of November, where the pre winter chill is descending. At stake: one team’s season and for the other, perhaps, the start of a playoff push (or the beginnng of the end same).
Buffalo vs Cleveland.
Reviving rust belt city blood brothers on the opposite shores of Lake Erie meeting in a game rife with intrigue and on the axis perhaps of changing the fortunes for one or both in a season now half over.
It will only be fitting if the game is played on a gloomy raw day, where running the ball will be king and tough mindedness will be necessary. It seems like many of the games between these teams have been similar. Of the 21 games played between these NFL teams, 15 have been played late in the year (or in January if a playoff game) from the 1st of November on. Sunny and warm with blue skies and gentle breezes are unlikely.
These teams have a history that many new or younger fans don’t realize extended back to the All American Football Conference of the 1940’s, a distant precursor to the American Football League that welcomed in Buffalo but which Cleveland (along with Baltimore and the 49ers) escaped by going to the already established NFL.
Players like Otto Graham, Marion Motley, Lou Saban and coaches like Paul Brown were involved in those original games and the Browns were a powerhouse.
The game this Sunday is intriguing to me. Most Bills/Browns games, from the 6-3 punt fest in Buffalo to the Ronnie Harmon playoff game in Cleveland to the snowstorm game with Trent Edwards vs Derek Anderson that ended up 8-0 Cleveland, to the Bills 42-0 road blowout of the Browns have had their strange idiocyncracies.
I expect nothing less this Sunday. Certainly the Browns have, in my opinion, as much or more offensive talent in Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry and Nick Chubb than the Bills have seen in an opponent all year. The Browns offensive line, however, has struggled all season and now starts traded Bills backup lineman Wyatt Teller (by the way, does this mean the Bills have to change their signals and line calls)?
Baker Mayfield has struggled and it seems like the play calling and perhaps a lack of focus both individually and collectively have contributed to struggles for a team that shouldn’t be having this much difficulty. As a reminder, the Browns went to Baltimore, the new media darling of the bloviating pundits and kicked their butts 40-25.
They ARE capable. Myles Garrett, a tremendous young talent and one of the top 2 sack leaders in the league, is quite capable of disrupting and changing game outcomes on his own. This is NOT the game for poor ball security in the passing game or for pass protection breakdowns.
The Bills, of course, have been dealing with their own issues. The inability to stop the run against this team could prove deadly. Bad ball security by the QB has been an issue as has scoring points with any consistency.
Still, they are better than last year, they play with a strong collective will and with what seems like a team culture that doesn’t break when under stress. Will that team culture be enough to offset the stars and wannabe stars of the Browns? It should be intriguing.Bills versus Browns games generally are.
Editor’s babble: Boy, Joe nailed this dicey matchup. Browns/Bills matchups always seem to be unusual in some regard. Thanks to Joe for all his terrific contributions to our blog. You can find Joe on Twitter @Joe_Tauriello.