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Browns vs. Bills: NFL Week 15 Preview and Prediction

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NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

This week, the Cleveland Browns take on the Buffalo Bills in Week 15 of the NFL regular season. Our position-by-position evaluation and game prediction are below.


Position-by-Position Evaluation


Quarterback

  • Tyrod Taylor is the best dual-threat quarterback the Browns will see in 2016. Fans have been disappointed a bit with his play, but he keeps the turnovers to a minimum, having thrown for 13 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. He has 471 yards rushing and 6 touchdowns on the ground.
  • Through two games (one at the start of the year and one last week), the results for Robert Griffin III have been the same: he’s inaccurate, has a really big arm, still has some wheels, and seems to grasp the playbook well enough. That hasn’t been good enough, particularly with the accuracy, where he’s at 44.4%. In his best seasons, he completed 65-68% of his passes. Will having shaken the rust off improve the accuracy?

Running Back

  • For as good as LeSean McCoy was in 2015 for the Bills, he's been even better in 2016. He's run the ball 186 times for 976 yards (5.2 YPC) and 10 touchdowns. He also has 41 catches for 317 yards and 1 touchdown; his 41 receptions are second on the team.
  • Mike Gillislee also gets a lot of work as the team's backup. He has 66 carries for 409 yards (6.2 YPC) and 6 touchdowns. He won't see as many targets (8 catches, 40 yards, 1 touchdown).
  • It was great to see Isaiah Crowell break out last week with 10 carries for 113 yards. The number of carries is a problem yet again, though. With how the flow of that game was going, Crowell should’ve been around 20 carries. He’s averaging 12 carries per game, while McCoy averages 15.5 carries per game. When the offensive line is going good, Crowell and Duke Johnson would make for as good of a tandem as McCoy and Gillislee.

Wide Receiver / Tight End

  • The Bills got a lift last week with both Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods having been active together for the first time since Week 2. Woods has missed three games this year, while Watkins has missed 8 games.
  • The team's big-play threat is Marquise Goodwin, who has scores of 67 and 84 yards this year to account for most of his yardage. Tight end Charles Clay can be a threat, but he’s been battling a nagging knee injury and isn’t having a productive season statistically. For the season, he has 39 catches for 375 yards and 1 touchdown.
  • You know Terrelle Pryor would love to hit the 1,000 yard mark on the season, but his 1-catch, 3-yard performance last week didn't help. I wouldn't say Pryor struggled -- he was only targeted three times all game, a season-low (not counting the two Bengals games, he averages 10 targets per game).
  • Corey Coleman has only caught 41.8% of his targets, a team low. He’s had a few drops, but quarterbacks just haven’t been able to hit him accurately enough.

Offensive Line

  • The Bills’ starting offensive line includes is typically LT Cordy Glenn, LG Richie Incognito, C Ryan Groy, RG John Miller, and RT Jordan Mills. Glenn is the best-of-the-bunch, but is likely out this week with a back injury. His replacement will be Cyrus Kouandjio, who provides some good stability. The Bills’ offensive line blocks very well in the running game, which is a testament to coach Anthony Lynn. Groy and Mills struggle in pass protection, though.
  • Last week, the Browns turned in their best offensive line day in awhile, and a lot of the credit should go to Jonathan Cooper, who showed some good power in the running game. That was only one week, but if two of these next three games go well too, he could enter the starting mix in 2017. Joe Thomas will man left guard as he always does, but C Cameron Erving and RT Austin Pasztor need to be replaced. Erving is bad, and Pasztor has been respectable, but not to where the position can be ignored.

Defensive Line

  • The Bills run a 3-4 defense. Their starting defensive line includes DT Kyle Williams, NT Marcell Dareus, and DE Adolphus Washington. Williams has long been one of the better defensive linemen in the NFL, being named to four Pro Bowls since entering the league in 2006.
  • Dareus signed a six-year deal this offseason that gives him $60 million in guaranteed money, the most ever for a non-QB. How did he re-pay the club? With a four-game suspension to start the year, and then missing four other games due to injuries. In the five games he has played, he’s been a disruptive force, registering 3.5 sacks.
  • Danny Shelton has 52 tackles on the year and could take advantage of the Bills' replacement center. Emmanuel Ogbah has turned up the pressure as the season has moved along. Shelton and Ogbah aren’t quite on the level of Dareus and Williams, and Carl Nassib still hasn’t turned the corner enough to be a force.

Linebacker

  • The Bills' starting linebackers include OLB Jerry Hughes, ILB Zach Brown, ILB Preston Brown, OLB Lorenzo Alexander. Hughes was a highly-sought after free agent in 2015, but he re-signed with Buffalo. His productivity has seen a decline under Rex Ryan’s reign, and last week, there was supposedly a rift between Hughes and Rob Ryan due a decrease in playing time.
  • Out of no where, Alexander has 10 sacks. This is a guy who was undrafted in 2005, and prior to this season, had only made 15 starts in 11 years (and 9 sacks during that entire span). Both Browns are tackling machines on the inside for Buffalo.
  • Christian Kirksey leads the Browns in tackles, but had a season-low three tackles last week. PFF says his effectiveness has actually taken a hit since the arrival of Jamie Collins. I envision the handling of Collins this offseason to be a hotly-contested topic among fans.

Secondary

  • The Bills' two starting cornerbacks are Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore, with Nickell Robey-Coleman playing the nickel. Corey Graham is one of their starting safeties, but overall, the position has been riddled with injuries. Jonathan Meeks and Corey White should see action at the other safety spot.
  • Cleveland seems to be finally OK with moving Tramon Williams to one of the safety positions. Sadly, it came about four months too late, at least to experiment with the idea. Joe Haden, Jamar Taylor, and Briean Boddy-Calhoun settled in for good individual efforts last week.

Special Teams

  • Dan Carpenter has connected on 15-of-19 field goals for the Bills, but has only attempted one field goal over the past three games and has missed two extra points during that stretch. Cody Parkey is 15-of-19 for the Browns. That means that since his disastrous debut against the Dolphins, he's gone 12-of-13.
  • The Bills' punter is Colton Schmidt, and he's close to last in the NFL in punt average at 42.2 yards. His net average is also down there at 38.4 yards per punt. We actually give Britton Colquitt the slight edge here.
  • Brandon Tate is the Bills’ kick and punt returner. He's averaging 10.9 yards per punt return. It's hard to believe that Duke Johnson has attempted 17 punt returns this season, perhaps because of how unmemorable they've been. He's averaging 6.6 yards per return, but get this: he has just one fair catch on the year.

Predictions

This year, we are listing predictions for multiple staff members here at DBN.


Chris Pokorny: “I’d love to fantasize about Robert Griffin III flipping the switch, but I’m not optimistic about it. Buffalo’s defensive front should have more success against Cleveland’s offensive line than they did against the Steelers last week, limiting the run game and forcing Griffin to be too one-dimensional. With the weather anticipated, I expect Buffalo to run it about 35-40 times and to break a few big ones. A late score draws Cleveland to within one possession, but they can’t get the ball back.” Bills 24, Browns 17.


Matt Wood: “Ugly game all around. Browns struggle up front as sexy Rexy wants to punish the Browns for firing Pettine. Game goes quick as both teams try to run the ball but turnovers keep both teams in it. Shady breaks some big runs late and goes for 150 as the Bills get the” Bills 27, Browns 13.


Jon Stinchcomb: “Bah humbug! Christmas is coming early! The Browns somehow, someway, get that one win they are so desperate for in low scoring slobber knocker these two teams used to deliver when they faced each other. But no one will see it because they all thought better than to be disappointed like every other Sunday and instead decided to see Rogue One a third time. But put the champagne back on the shelf another year, Lions, the parade is canceled.” Browns 13, Bills 9.


Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below!