Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium (Cleveland, OH)
When: 1:0 PM EST
Announcers: Gus Johnson & Steve Tasker (CBS)
Let the snow fall all game long. Whether or not it benefits one time isn't the point here -- games of this type of magnitude in this type of weather don't come along every other week. The formula is simple for the Browns today: a win coupled with a Titans loss means that the city of Cleveland will be celebrating yet another playoff berth, completing the trifecta of the city's major sports making the postseason. The task won't be an easy one against the Buffalo Bills though, as they have fought their way back into the playoff race.
Continuing my trend, I'm going to highlight a couple of other games to watch today. These games will have the most significant impact on the Browns' playoff chances:
Tennessee Titans (7-6) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (4-9): Tennessee blew their opportunity to stay on pace with the Browns last week when they squandered away a 17-3 fourth-quarter lead against the Chargers. Albert Haynesworth is still banged up and did not practice during the week, but he should be ready to start again. The Chiefs are still without star running back Larry Johnson and they have had difficulty mustering offense all season long. Even with Vince Young's struggles on offense, as long as he gets his team in position for a couple of field goals, the Titans should be fine. In this game, you can bank on the Titans preventing the Browns from clinching this week.
Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-4): We hate the Steelers, right? Of course we do. And, I would love nothing more than for them to lose, bringing the Browns closer to a potential division title. If the Steelers remain perfect at home and beat the Jaguars though, the Browns would actually slip into the fifth seed with a win. Pittsburgh's offense has not been efficient the past couple of weeks, and the Jaguars aren't the team to get a jumpstart against. The Steelers' defense has stayed strong, but Maurice-Jones Drew and Fred Taylor will be run all day long to the point where once they will break a big play. In this game, you can count on the Jaguars pulling off the upset on the Steelers.
Now, here's the preview for the snowdown between the Browns and the Bills...
|Points Scored||17.1 (26th)||27.7 (5th)|
|Passing||173.1 (28th)||242.8 (10th)|
|Rushing||110.5 (16th)||109.4 (17th)|
|Total Offense (yards)||283.6 (28th)||352.2 (9th)|
|Points Scored||22.4 (16th)||27.4 (32nd)|
|Passing||251.4 (28th)||259.2 (30th)|
|Rushing||112.4 (18th)||130.5 (28th)|
|Total Defense (yards)||363.8 (30th)||389.7 (32nd)|
The same comparisons that were drawn last week between Derek Anderson and Kellen Clemons can be drawn this week between Anderson and Trent Edwards. In their own ways, both quarterbacks have shown the ability to go out and win football games. Anderson has done it through being in the spotlight, while Edwards has done it through being a low-key game manager. Anderson is 9-4 this season while Edwards is 5-1. Together, they represent the most impressive group of so-called "new" quarterbacks to hit the league this season. The fact that the Browns are involved in shootouts every week provides a significant edge to Anderson in the head-to-head matchup. Don't be fooled by Edwards' four-touchdown performance last week, because anyone could have decimated the Dolphins at that point. Edwards' game-management has relied too much on support from his defense, especially on the road, where he has yet to throw a touchdown. In tough weather conditions in what is becoming a hostile environment, it's hard to believe he plays his most efficient game of the year in comparison to Anderson.
The young class of running backs in this year's draft wasn't as plentiful as last year's, but it did bring out the best (Adrian Peterson) and a guy with an under-rated season in Marshawn Lynch. Lynch returned from injury last week and ran for over 100 yards on 23 carries. He is on pace to go over 1,000 for the season, but he has only gone over the century mark once this season. With enough touches he should be able to crack that against the Browns, but early on in the game I wouldn't expect him to do any better than Edgerrin James and Thomas Jones have the past two weeks. The Bills are also going to try and give backup Fred Jackson some carries, as he played very well in Lynch's absence. The Browns have more faith now than ever in Jamal Lewis after his "game-deciding touchdown" last week against the Jets. Whether he gets stuffed or breaks out big runs, the Browns will continue running the ball until it pays dividends.
As Buffalo Rumblings' Brian Galliford stated, Bills receiver Lee Evans, a native to Northeastern Ohio, has been a disappointment this season. "Too often Evans is completely erased from being a factor in the outcome of the game; I believe he has elite tools, but he needs more help around him in order for those talents to be fully exploited." Considering the Browns haven't allowed a deep ball for weeks now, the same schemes should be applied when covering Evans to keep the rest of the Bills' receivers subdued. Braylon Edwards only needs one more touchdown to break the team record, and chances are he'll get it with the pace he has been on. Joshua Cribbs finally got a reception last week -- any chance that he'll be used on a trick play in the snow? Kellen Winslow has been quiet on the stat sheet the past two weeks, but that could easily change this week. The Bills have been dominated by Chris Cooley, Jason Witten, and Benjamin Watson this season, yielding a touchdown to each of them. Besides that, they haven't face too many premiere tight ends to speak of.
Buffalo's offensive line has been ridiculed in the past by many. In the offseason, they somewhat of a risk by investing a lot of money in linemen Langston Walker and Derrick Dockery. At this point of the season, both signings are probably the team's best moves from the offseason. They have paved the way for a rookie running back to compliment an otherwise low-key passing game, and they have kept the quarterbacks on their feet enough so they aren't feeling bumps and bruises every other week. Looking back though, I'd say the Browns ended up doing a tad better with the additions of Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach in the offseason. That is the side that Jamal Lewis ran off of last week to seal the game, and the investment paid off.
Not only does it seem like the linebackers on the Browns are learning to play their positions better, the coaches seem to be making more of the right decisions personnel wise. Leon Williams saw more looks in pass coverage last week and flourished. Antwan Peek and Kamerion Wimbley are coming up with notable pressures. That allows D'Qwell Jackson to hover around wherever he is needed to make a sound tackle. The Bills don't feature a big-play linebacker that's going to cause confusion for Anderson, although strongside linebacker Angelo Crowell has been around the league long enough to be considered the group's best threat. I'd be surprised if the Browns didn't try to get the ball to Winslow this week, although I'm usually surprised if we don't get the ball to him any week.
The Browns' secondary having an advantage this week? With Eric Wright scheduled to come back, the secondary could be ready to play better than it has all season long. While Daven Holly was a sound tackler the past few weeks, he allowed too many catches in front of him, something that Wright will hopefully be able to prevent someone like Josh Reed from getting. With Wright playing, don't expect the reps for Brandon McDonald to stop anytime soon. He's established himself, and will probably be responsible for covering Evans if the Bills go deep -- let's hope he's ready to be tested again. If I'm the Bills, I'd be concerned that starting safety George Wilson was just placed on the injured reserve. That is almost begging for a deep ball to be thrown to Edwards (not Tim Carter) at some point in the game. One other note: safety Donte Whitner, a former Buckeye, is the team's other starting safety.
Not many teams are on the same level special teams wise as the Browns, but the last week and now this week the Browns are facing some of the best the AFC has to offer. We all know what Joshua Cribbs and Phil Dawson can do, but how about the Bills? Rian Lindell has only missed three field goals this season, and with the Bills not scoring a lot of touchdowns on the year, his kicks have been depended on to win close games. Roscoe Parrish is the Bills' punt return, and he can be simply brilliant at what he does. On 22 returns this season, he is averaging 17.5 yards a pop, compared to Cribbs' 10.8 yard average on 22 returns.
FINAL PREDICTION: Cleveland Browns 28, Buffalo Bills 17.
Let it snow, let it snow. This game not only has the most significant implications of the week (since both teams have something big to fight for), snow and high winds are in the forecast in what could be the league's first snow bowl of the season. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather see teams play in the snow than I would in the rain. The Browns currently control the sixth seed in the AFC, and a lot of that has to do with their home record since quarterback Derek Anderson took over in Week 2. Last week against the New York Jets, the Browns overcame some of their road deficiencies with early solid play from their defense and the "young" legs of Jamal Lewis. That could be the key again this week for the Browns, especially in the snow.
The game-management skills of Trent Edwards remain impressive, but this is a game where he can't rely solely on preventing turnovers -- he needs to score early and often. The Bills have only scored more than 19 points three times this season. In all three instances in which that occurred -- against Dallas, Cincinnati, and Miami -- the games were at home for Buffalo. The Browns' defense has gotten a little better, but when Buffalo scores 3, 7, 13, 13, 14, and 17 points on the road, there is no way they'll be able to match the 27 points per game the Browns are averaging. Buffalo's defense may be "good", but the Browns are scoring that many points against the Steelers, Ravens, Seahawks, and any defense that is thrown their way.
This is the official gameday topic for the Cleveland Browns in Week 15 as they square off against the Buffalo Bills. All comments regarding the game should be posted in this topic. Enjoy the game, and GO BROWNS!!!