And here we are. Once again we find ourselves at that critical juncture of the season where the Browns are in a must win situation. As is usually the case, this must win situation is to avoid falling to 0-3 and digging themselves into an almost insurmountable hole. Yup, same old Browns.
It’s not going to be easy, though. The Browns take on the Bills this week and there’s no real way to tell which version is going to show up. Will it be the version that was annihilated in week 1 by the Jets or will we see the week 2 version that ran roughshod all over the Kansas City Chiefs? Judging from prior seasons, it seems more than likely it will be the former since the Bills have been one of the worst road teams in the league for years now.
Here’s the thing about this game. The Browns have done two things consistently over the years since their return from NFL hibernation. They lose at home and they beat the Bills. So since this is a home game against the Bills, somethings gonna have to give. Unfortunately, I have a feeling we’re going to be on the short end of this thing for one very simple reason… C.J. Spiller.
Over the first two weeks of the season, Spiller has been a beast. He’s run wild and quickly established himself as the best back in the NFL so far this season. He’s averaging just over 10 yards per carry, which is absolutely insane, and looks like the second coming of Barry Sanders but with Chris Johnson speed. You know, back when Chris Johnson was actually good. So basically, if the Browns can’t stop Spiller, it’s going to be a long day.
As for the Browns, the need to build off of last weeks positive momentum against the Bengals. The offense actually looked like an NFL caliber offense, Trent Richardson looked like everything he was advertised to be, and Brandon Weeden actually looked like an NFL quarterback. I know, I’m shocked too. The Bills supposedly have a really good defense. Whether that’s true or not is anyone’s best guess, but we’re going to find out. If they can be successful then maybe it’s possible that Pat Shurmur has started to figure this whole NFL thing out.
We can only hope.
Keys to Winning:
1. Establish Trent Richardson early and often: The Bills have a really good pass rush so to counter that, the Browns will need to get Trent Richardson going early. If he can have himself a game like he had last week, it’ll help keep the Buffalo pass rushers at bay and maybe, just maybe, buy Weeden some time in the pocket to find his receivers down the field. Also, seeing a second straight week of Trent Richardson going bat shit crazy will help ease a lot of people’s worries about his earlier knee issues.
2. Put Weeden in a positive situation: Last week, Shurmur put Weeden in an excellent position to be successful. He moved the pocket a bit more than he did in week one. He ran plays to get mismatches, he provided plenty of safety valves, and he didn’t do anything mind numbingly stupid. If he can do that again, aka call a perfect game, then Weeden could have another successful start. However, Weeden will have to be aware of how the pocket is or isn’t breaking down and be careful not to stare down his receivers as the Buffalo secondary is very opportunistic.
3. Stop C.J. Spiller: I already explained this above. Stop Spiller and the Bills offense becomes very average with Ryan Fitzpatrick. If they can’t keep Spiller in check, then the Bills are going to put up points in bunches.
4. Better play from the secondary: Anyone who watched last weeks game could see that the secondary struggled with A.J. Green and the rest of Cincinnati’s assortment of wide receivers. They’ll get a chance to redeem themselves this week as they take on Stevie Johnson. Johnson is a stud receiver capable of putting up huge number thanks to an excellent combination of size and speed. He’s by far Fitzpatrick’s favorite target, so keeping him covered will uber important. He’s probably going to get a lot of balls thrown to him and a lot of catches so that means actually making tackles and limiting his yards after the catch. That’s something they couldn’t do last week.
5. Play a cleaner game: The Browns shot themselves in the foot time and time again last week with penalties. They had over 100 yards in penalties thanks to a variety of false starts, offsides, pass interferences, and unsportsmanlike conducts. They need to be smarter than that. If they keep giving away free yardage, opposing teams are going to continue to have the upper hand regardless of how many turnover they might force.
Prediction: Bills 34 – Browns 24