To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Brian Galliford from Buffalo Rumblings and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: "Fantasy drafts were promoting C.J. Spiller as one of the top backs this year because he was finally scheduled to be the Bills' top back, rather than splitting time with Fred Jackson. Four games into the season, Jackson has more rushing yards and receiving yards than Spiller. Why hasn't Spiller been the featured back, and will a splitting of reps continue?"
Brian: "It's important to note that Spiller has been forced out of each of the last two games with an ankle injury; it's the same ailment that could keep him from playing Thursday night in Cleveland. That explains Jackson being on the field more at this point. But it's also true that Jackson has been the more consistent and productive player this season.
Spiller, for several reasons, has really struggled this year playing within a new offense that has not yet gotten him into space with any regularity. He started the season as the primary back - he was getting about 60 percent of the snaps to Jackson's 40 in the first two games - but until he's healthy and playing better, that may change."
Chris: "E.J. Manuel has gotten off to a fairly impressive start to the season. Through four games, what has been his primary strength and weakness as a quarterback?"
Brian: "Manuel's greatest on-field asset right now is his arm talent. Through four games, if he's had a clean pocket and is seeing the field clearly, he's been deadly - Manuel has made a lot of good throws so far this year.
His greatest weakness, aside from general inexperience, is his inability to consistently feel pressure. Manuel's mechanics break down and he becomes very erratic in the face of pressure, and it's led to inaccurate throws and a few turnovers. This is all pretty basic stuff for a rookie quarterback, and by and large he's been a little better than expected."
Chris: "The Bills have been a tough defense for me to figure out. They were opportunistic last week in intercepting Joe Flacco five times, but they are also 27th in the NFL in yards allowed and haven't exactly shut down opposing offenses. Between the defensive line, linebacker, and secondary positions, which group has struggled the most?"
Brian: "Their secondary has been the biggest issue, and it's not even close. For most of the last two games, the Bills were playing without four of their top five defensive backs: Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks at cornerback, and Jairus Byrd at safety. That forced Aaron Williams to move from safety to corner - he shadowed Torrey Smith last week, giving up one big play but also picking off two passes - to line up with Justin Rogers, who has been absolutely torched by opponents this season. McKelvin and Byrd both have a chance to play in Cleveland, so they're getting healthier, but the secondary remains a major concern for now."
Chris: "Tell us about one player on the Bills who Browns fans might not know about but could have a big game this Sunday."
Brian: "Anticipating that the Bills will be throwing more than usual because of Cleveland's run defense (though in fairness, we anticipated the same thing against Baltimore, and then the Bills ran for over 200 yards), I'll go with tight end Scott Chandler. Browns fans have likely heard of Chandler - thanks, fantasy football - but the 6'7" tight end has been quickly growing comfortable playing with Manuel over the last couple of weeks. He runs hot and cold, but the Bills make him a priority in the passing game, and he can give a defense problems with his length and ability to make tough catches in traffic."
Chris: "Each of the Bills' games have been down-to-the-wire wins or losses. Is there a common "X-Factor" that seems to be the difference maker in the wins vs. the losses (i.e. success on third down, defense collapsing, a turnover, etc)?"
Brian: "Not a common one, no. They have had common issues week to week - they're pretty bad on third downs both offensively and defensively, and they commit way too many penalties, for starters - but while those played big roles in the difference between victory and defeat, really it was all in-game circumstance.
Buffalo couldn't put together a drive on offense to close out New England in Week 1. Luke Kuechly committed a pass interference on Stevie Johnson to set up a game-winning score in Week 2, erasing a pick in the process. The Bills only lost to the Jets by one touchdown thanks to an insane 20 penalties on New York's part; otherwise that might have been a blowout. John Harbaugh kicked a field goal from Buffalo's six-yard line with four minutes left last week; if they score a touchdown there, it's game over. It's a smorgasbord of weird stuff, as close games in the NFL tend to be."
Thanks again to Brian for taking the time to answer my questions.