It’s prime-time football and the Bills are taking their young gun rookie show on the road. In last week’s victory, first year starters EJ Manuel, Robert Woods and Kiko Alonso lit up the Ravens with their speed and youthful agility. Thursday night, they’re going up against a Cleveland team with a similar playing style. The revamped Browns are quick and tricky. They have weapons all around on both sides of the ball and, just like the Bills, they’re ready to make a statement to the entire nation in prime-time.
Cleveland’s 2nd year quarterback, Brandon Weeden, went down early in the season with a thumb injury so the team has been placed on the shoulders the undrafted journeyman and former Tom Brady apprentice, Brian Hoyer. Hoyer has done his mentor right in his first 2 games, winning both of them while throwing for 5 touchdowns. He’s a solid option for the Browns and has already gained the respect of his teammates. There’s not a ton of tape on Hoyer in this offensive system, so that’s an advantage for Cleveland. What is known about him is that he’s not a pressure quarterback. If the Bills can continue their high octane, take-no-prisoners approach, they should be able to rattle Hoyer and cause some turnovers. Hoyer is a dream come true for the banged up Bills secondary because of his “gun slinger” style. His completion percentage is only 59.8 but that’s because he’s averaging a ridiculous 48 attempts per game, obviously because of Cleveland’s inability to get the running game off the ground.
Earlier this year, the Browns traded their all-star running back, Trent Richardson, to Indianapolis for a first round pick in 2014. A couple days later, they picked up the former Bill, Willis McGahee to be the starter on their round table of running backs. Just seeing his name should stir up a long brewing fire in Bills fans. McGahee said he was too good for this team and that he never wanted to play in Buffalo in the first place. He went on to talk trash about the region, the nightlife and, yes, even the women. The funny part is, we never liked him either. After a few years in Baltimore, where his numbers dropped off and he had some choice words for the fans, and a couple seasons in Denver, where his work ethic was questioned leading to his release, McGahee found himself unemployed this summer. That is until Cleveland signed him a couple weeks ago. He claims he’s “here to play” but has only put up 55 yards on 23 attempts over 2 games, so maybe not. The Browns’ running game is a mess. Between McGahee and fellow running backs Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey, it should be easy pickins for Buffalo’s D-line and Hurricane Kiko.
What’s not easy pickins is tight end Jordan Cameron and wide receiver Josh Gordon. They have really blossomed this year under the new offensive scheme and have quickly become the favorite targets of new starting QB, Brian Hoyer. Just in the last 2 games lead by Hoyer, Cameron has put up 157 yards and 4 touchdowns and Gordon has notched 217 yards and a touchdown. Look out for Cameron over the middle in the redzone and Gordon streaking the edges of the field. No doubt, the Browns will try to match up Josh Gordon and Aaron Williams in this game.
Browns head coach, Rob Chudzinski, said he decided to take defensive end Barkevious Mingo over EJ Manuel in the first round of this year’s draft. Mingo is now a linebacker and is averaging a sack per game. He’s only got 10 total tackles but the Browns are confident in what their rookie does off the ball. His main job is to cause confusion. He slides up behind linemen, drops back in coverage or flanks out on the end of the line to set the edge. He’s versatile and quick but has yet to have a breakout game like Kiko Alonso has had for the Bills. Mingo is only one part of this re-built aggressive Cleveland defense staring their shutdown corner, Joe Haden. Haden has gone up against the opponents’ #1 receiver in every game this year and has yet to have a TD scored against him. Stevie Johnson’s unconventional route running should get him open plenty against Haden but, the question remains; will he make the catch?
Watching the Bills play in prime-time is always exciting. It would be nice if Buffalo could get a Monday Night game again but, until then, we’ll settle for the short-week game on Thursday. The Bills and Browns have a history of defensive grudge matches, often decided by field goals. This season, with both teams beefing up their defenses, I’d expect much of the same from the Lake Erie neighbors.
– Josh Paufler
Thursday October 3rd 2013
Kickoff 8:25 pm
First Energy Stadium – Cleveland, OH
TV: NFL Network – Verison FiOS 505, WBBZ – Time Warner 10 (HD 710)
Radio: WGR 550 AM