This Sunday, not a whole lot of the country will have the pleasure of watching the Cleveland Browns take on the Buffalo Bills. I'm sure part of the reason for that is that neither team is projected to make the postseason, especially the Bills, who are already eliminated from contention. Another part of the reason has to be the fact that these two teams played in one of the worst games ever last season.
With that said, it seems like Cleveland has had Buffalo's number as of late, whether the games have been "ugly" due to weather conditions or poor play offensively...
2009 (Browns win 6-3): QB Derek Anderson was 2-of-17 for 23 yards and 1 interception, but that was good enough for a victory on his resume. It was a pretty embarrassing effort by both teams, with the Browns picking up a victory by a final score of 6-3 thanks to great punting throughout the game by Dave Zastudil. The Bills muffed a punt near the end of the game, Cleveland recovered, and Billy Cundiff's 18-yarder proved to be the game winner.
2008 (Browns win 29-27): This ended up being a pretty entertaining game, and both teams actually had a record near .500. The Browns had two big highlights in this game. First, Jerome Harrison busted a 72-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, which was immediately followed by a "pissed off looking" Romeo Crennel. With Cleveland losing 27-26 and under two minutes to go, Phil Dawson drilled a career-long 56-yard field goal.
2007 (Browns win 8-0): The score might have been low, but this is one of my most memorable Browns games of all time because of the sheer amount of snow in Cleveland during the game. Special teams played a key factor, with Phil Dawson hitting a 35- and 49-yard field goal..."in a BLIZZARD!" The Browns also netted a safety when the Bills' punter couldn't handle a high snap. This was also the game in which LB Andra Davis looked like the fastest defender on the field for the only time in his career.
This weekend's game might be closest to the 2007 contest when it comes to weather conditions. I'm not getting my hopes up too much, but deep down inside I am rooting to see another snow bowl between these two teams.
In terms of talent and the way the teams are playing, the Browns are favored to come away with a victory. There is really only one thing the Browns need to do against Buffalo, regardless of the weather conditions: run the football with Peyton Hillis.
Buffalo gives up an average of 170.9 yards rushing per game. That is good for 32nd in the NFL by far, with the next worst team, the Denver Broncos, giving up a whole 25 yards less on average per game. In one week, a difference that wide wouldn't be such a big deal. When that type of range exists in Week 14 though, it is clear that the Bills cannot stop the run whatsoever. The Bills deserve credit for trying hard and being a tough team, but their lack of a run defense is the biggest reason they are 2-10 right now. Hillis also needs just 38 yards to crack 1,000 rushing yards for the season.
On offense, Buffalo has some potent weapons in QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Fred Jackson, and WR Steve Johnson. Since Trent Edwards was released, the Bills actually look like they can hang with another team in a shootout if necessary. The key to taming Buffalo's offense is to simply keep them off the field and then force Fitzpatrick to try to hurry the ball down the field when his team is behind. Fitzpatrick likes to go for the deep ball to Johnson, something the Browns, particularly Joe Haden, has been defending well.
Buffalo's offense might not have a chance to get going this Sunday though due to all of the injuries and shuffling they have on the offensive line this week. Can you imagine how much fun Shaun Rogers is going to have pass rushing against those guys? As the article notes too, the injuries could take away some of the lanes Jackson has been getting, making the Bills too one-dimensional.
Here's one last nugget from the Akron Beacon Journal, where Dawson tells how he prepares for the weather:
Some guys layer and stock up on hand warmers, and others give in to their youthful side and go out and play. But Dawson prepares for snow games with weatherchannel.com.
''I've got it on my phone,'' he said. ''I've already checked it four times today. That's part of my preparation.''