Three things on my mind as the Bills get ready to face Cleveland:
Who are the real Browns?
The Bills are 6-2. The Browns are 2-6. Yet, Last Vegas has made the Browns a 2.5 or 3 point favorite. That means, on a neutral field, the sharps think Cleveland and Buffalo are, practically, the same team.
There’s an argument to be made that the Browns are more talented than Buffalo. Odell Beckham, Nick Chubb, Myles Garrett and company certainly have more big names. Cleveland has played a tougher schedule than Buffalo, but they didn’t lose all six games to the Patriots. There are plenty of internal reasons why the Browns are 2-6. More on that below.
I’m curious to see what Cleveland team shows up this week. If it’s the same one from the past eight, than Buffalo should be fine. Do the Browns play desperate like Philly two weeks ago? Or maybe does Cleveland play loose and free with the weight of expectations lifted because, at 2-6, their season is officially in the tank? Either of the latter make this Browns team a real problem.
Hunt-ing The Run
The Bills have the second worst run defense in the NFL over the last four weeks and things don’t get easier this week. Chubb is a legit star and Cleveland gets Kareem Hunt for the first time after he served an eight game domestic abuse suspension.
I’m not as big a Hunt fan (as a player) as many and who knows how ready he will be after nearly a year away from playing games. That said, it’s hard not to argue the Browns can put two of the top 15 or 20 backs in football on the field at the same time Sunday.
Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens said this week Hunt “will have a role” against the Bills. If Philly can drop 200 yards on the Bills with legends like Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard, there’s certainly a distinct possibility Cleveland does the same.
A Strong Front
Despite the flak Buffalo’s front seven is taking for its issues against the run, I think they can have a game swinging performance Sunday.
Cleveland’s weakest offensive group is easily the offensive line. The Bills don’t have to shut down Chubb and friends, but they, at least, have to make running the ball difficult.
They also need to take advantage and get pressure on Baker Mayfield. The 2018 #1 pick hasn’t been the golden child at QB he was last year, but he will produce if given time.
If the Bills front seven does not have a strong game, it’s hard to imagine a Bills win.
The Browns are close to the bottom of the league in four key categories: penalties, turnovers, third down conversions and red zone efficiency. I don’t care how much talent you have. You don’t win games if you’re terrible in these areas. For the record, Buffalo is the NFL’s best at red zone efficiency, but middling in the other three stats.
Cleveland has spent the first half of the season finding ways to lose while the Bills have been finding ways to win. If this game is close, I think both teams fall into their early season habits and Buffalo gets a W.
However, I don’t think this game will be a nailbiter. I think Cleveland’s ability to run the ball will be too much for the Bills to overcome. I don’t think Josh Allen is ready to win a shootout. As good as the Bills secondary has been, they haven’t seen a pair of receivers like Beckham and Jarvis Landry. I think they make a play or two when necessary. I’ll take the Browns relatively comfortably 26-17.