Game Preview: Cleveland Browns @ Buffalo Bills
A few weeks ago, the 2022 Buffalo Bills knocked off team after team on their schedule with ease. If you wanted some added drama, the Bills have certainly provided that as of late. This Sunday is the next chapter in what has become quite the tumultuous last few weeks for the team. Let’s take a look at the second chapter of Detroit being Buffalo’s home away from home.
The Last Five
Browns 19 Bills 16 (2019)
Bills 33 Browns 13 (2016)
Bills 26 Browns 10 (2014)
Browns 37 Bills 24 (2013)
Bills 24 Browns 14 (2012)
Despite being the closest team geographically to them, the Bills and Browns have rarely played. The two teams have only played once since Sean McDermott took over. That hasn’t always been the case, though. They were stuck in a cycle of finishing in the same spot in their respective divisions and played eight times in 10 seasons from 2007 to 2016. That honor seems to be reserved for the Chiefs these days.
What To Watch For: Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen – Something has happened to Josh Allen. The once-MVP favorite has been a shell of himself since halftime of the Green Bay game back on Halloween Eve. Allen has always been capable of the occasional “Wyoming Josh” hero moment and boneheaded play, but he had worked hard to limit them since his rookie season. The past few weeks we have seen Allen be more reckless with the ball.
His red zone turnovers have cost this team their last two games, and he will be the first one to admit that. If he continues to turn the ball over in the red zone, there will be some very uncomfortable conversations surrounding Allen. Given his talent level and how he defied all of the NFL draft pundits, it would make sense that Allen is due to turn his performance around soon. And this week is as good as any.
2nd Half Offense – Since the Bills defeated the Chiefs they have played three games… They have not scored a second half touchdown in any of them. The second half ineptitude didn’t cost them the game against Green Bay, but it did against New York and Minnesota. The Buffalo Bills have blown two-score leads in consecutive games and the lack of second half action is the biggest reason why. To be fair, the team has moved the ball in the second half. However, Josh Allen’s untimely red zone turnovers have exacerbated their struggles. The fact remains the Bills have to find ways to produce in the second half, or this losing streak will continue.
Save The Season – With the season at a crossroads, the Bills have to find a way to win this week. Dropping to 6-4 and adding another conference loss to their record would certainly end their AFC top seed aspirations. While this team is undoubtedly a contender, for them to have any shot at hosting home playoff games and winning a third straight division title, they must find a way to win this game on Sunday. Even in the face of newfound adversity of playing a “home” game in Detroit, the team must win this game.
What To Watch For: Cleveland Browns
Pass Defense – The Browns are coming off of their worst pass defense performance of the season, allowing a 135.1 passer rating to Tua Tagovailoa. Tua was nearly perfect as he sliced his way through the Browns secondary. If Tua, Hill, and Waddle were the opening act, Cleveland might not want to think about what Allen, Diggs, and Davis could do to them this week. Although Allen and the Bills offense has stumbled lately, they are still a constant threat to expose the weak spots in your secondary. They can make big plays that suck the life out of your defense. A repeat performance of last week will make it tough for Cleveland to win this game.
Run Chubb Into The Ground – With Deshawn Watson still sidelined, the Browns’ best path to victory remains through the legs of Nick Chubb. That is especially true when playing a team like the Bills, who have struggled to stop the run as of late. The Bills defense is allowing five yards per carry over their last two games. And they were gradually worn down by Dalvin Cook last week as the game went on. Chubb is coming off of a game in which he had good numbers. However, the Dolphins’ ability to turn the game into a track meet limited his touches as the game progressed. Given Buffalo’s inability to slow down the run, the Browns would be wise to stick with it, even if they fall behind. It is something the Bills’ last two opponents have done and it has worked out for them in the end.
Force Turnovers – Given Allen’s recent accuracy and ball protection woes, you can bet that the Browns have been preaching turnovers all week. Don’t be surprised if the Browns defense sells out to force an early turnover. That would almost certainly raise the tension on the Bills’ sideline. Allen will likely be extra cautious with the ball this week. Meanwhile, the Browns are going to make a concerted effort to add to Allen’s recent struggles; something has to give in that mental tug-of-war.
Bills 33 Browns 13 The Buffalo Bills have no choice but to get back on track this week against Cleveland. Their season literally depends on it. I do think that the Bills roster is way too talented to lose three games in a row. And, if you look at their losses, it is clear that it takes extreme circumstances to beat them. A snowstorm forcing them to relocate might fit that “extreme circumstance” bill, but I don’t see that happening this week. By Sunday night, the Bills will be 2-0 in home games played in Ralph Wilson’s home city of Detroit.
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