Buffalo Bills (2-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-2)
Thursday, October 3 at 8:30 pm ET on the NFL Network
Brad Nessler (play by play), Mike Mayock (analysis), Alex Flanagan (sideline eye candy)
Browns favored by 4½; over/under 41

 

Brian Hoyer has done his best to sabotage Mike Lombardi’s plot for the Browns to duplicate the Indianapolis Colts’ successful plan to tank the season and in order to seize an early position in next April’s draft. In the two games since he replaced Brandon Weeden, Hoyer has quarterbacked Cleveland to two victories and a share of the AFC North lead, passing for 590 yards and five touchdowns.

To be fair the turnaround – the Browns were 5-11 last year and have had just one winning season over the last ten years – has been dependent on other players just as much, if not more. TE Jordan Cameron has been unstoppable. The third-year pro from USC now has 30 receptions (18 for first downs) for 360 yards and five touchdowns (2nd most in the NFL). The yardage is second among tight ends (just four yards behind Antonio Gates) and the 30 catches is the most for a tight end, and fifth most overall in the NFL. Hoyer has developed a good rapport with Cameron; in the two games Hoyer has started Cameron has caught 16 passes and four touchdowns.

Defensively the Browns have played very well, limiting opponents to just 17.5 points per game. Last week the Cleveland D was able to come through with a clutch play in the 4th quarter when they came up with an interception of a tipped pass with less than four minutes to play. CB Joe Haden did a stellar job in coverage, blanketing A.J. Green and limiting him to 51 yards and seven receptions on 14 targets, with two passes defensed.

Buffalo would like to apply some pressure to see how the relatively inexperienced Hoyer responds. Mario Williams already has 5½ sacks this season and could be a major factor in Thursday’s contest. Cleveland RT Mitchell Schwartz has struggled at times this season and the last time Williams faced a team with pass protection he issues he had a field day, with 4½ sacks against Carolina. If the Bills can force Hoyer to hurry his throws then there is less opportunity for WR Josh Gordon (10 receptions for 146 yards and a TD last week) to get open and burn a Buffalo defense that could benefit from a return of Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd.

The Bills have some major injury concerns as RB C.J. Spiller (ankle) and RB Fred Jackson (knee) were both hurt after combining for 164 yards rushing against Baltimore. Jackson said he has a torn MCL in his left knee but will “manage the pain”, while X-rays revealed no structural damage for Spiller; the shorter week to recover is problematic for both players. EJ Manuel threw for only 167 yards with one TD while throwing two picks and a losing a fumble, but Buffalo’s D came through in a big way with four sacks while picking off Joe Flacco five times.

 

Stats

Penalty Yards per Game: Cleveland 54 (18th); Buffalo 79 (29th)
Opponent Penalty Yards per Game: Cleveland 44 (26th); Buffalo 73 (4th)
Turnover Differential: Cleveland 0 (T-14th); Buffalo +4 (T-7th)
DVOA: Cleveland -12.1% (24th); Buffalo +9.4% (10th)

Cleveland Offense
Points: 16.0 (29th)
Yards: 324 (24th)
Giveaways: 7 (T-14th)
DVOA: -18.3% (27th)
Yards per Point: 20.2 (28th)
Red Zone TD: 67% (T-5th)
Third Down Conversion: 32% (25th)
Starting Field Position: 26.9 (18th)
Net Yards per Punt (return): 44 (25th)

Rushing Yards per Game: 76 (26th)
Rushing Yards per Carry: 3.8 (20th)

Passing Yards per Game: 248 (15th)
Yards per Attempt: 6.1 (29th)
Yards per Completion: 9.5 (28th)
Completion Percentage: 56.8% (28th)
Passer Rating: 74.1 (26th)
Interceptions: 6 (T-25th)
Sacked: 17 (31st)
Yards Lost on Sacks: 132 (32nd)
Completions per Game: 26 (10th)
Incomplete Passes per Game: 20 (32nd)

Buffalo Offense
Points: 22.0 (21st)
Yards: 350 (16th)
Giveaways: 7 (T-14th)
DVOA: -4.7% (21st)
Yards per Point: 15.9 (16th)
Red Zone TD: 42% (27th)
Third Down Conversion: 30% (27th)
Starting Field Position: 27.3 (16th)
Net Yards per Punt (return): 42 (20th)

Rushing Yards per Game: 152 (2nd)
Rushing Yards per Carry: 4.1 (14th)

Passing Yards per Game: 198 (28th)
Yards per Attempt: 6.6 (24th)
Yards per Completion: 10.7 (17th)
Completion Percentage: 56.9% (27th)
Passer Rating: 80.2 (24th)
Interceptions: 3 (T-11th)
Sacked: 11 (T-18th)
Yards Lost on Sacks: 64 (T-15th)
Completions per Game: 19 (26th)
Incomplete Passes per Game: 14 (18th)

Cleveland Defense
Points: 17.5 (T-8th)
Yards: 292 (3rd)
Takeaways: 7 (T-13th)
DVOA: -10.3% (8th)
Yards per Point: 16.7 (14th)
Red Zone TD: 50% (11th)
Third Down Conversion: 44% (27th)
Starting Field Position: 30.6 (25th)
Net Yards per Punt: 41 (20th)

Rushing Yards per Game: 79 (4th)
Rushing Yards per Carry: 2.9 (1st)

Passing Yards per Game: 213 (9th)
Yards per Attempt: 5.9 (2nd)
Yards per Completion: 9.0 (1st)
Completion Percentage: 60.6% (15th)
Passer Rating: 73.5 (9th)
Interceptions: 3 (T-18th)
Sacks: 14 (T-3rd)
Yards Lost on Sacks: 67 (17th)
Completions per Game: 24 (19th)
Incompletions per Game: 15 (10th)

Buffalo Defense
Points: 23.3 (18th)
Yards: 399 (27th)
Takeaways: 11 (T-4th)
DVOA: -13.3% (7th)
Yards per Point: 17.2 (11th)
Red Zone TD: 36% (7th)
Third Down Conversion: 39% (21st)
Starting Field Position: 29.4 (22nd)
Net Yards per Punt: 43 (14th)

Rushing Yards per Game: 122 (27th)
Rushing Yards per Carry: 4.2 (21st)

Passing Yards per Game: 277 (23rd)
Yards per Attempt: 7.1 (17th)
Yards per Completion: 12.2 (28th)
Completion Percentage: 53.8% (4th)
Passer Rating: 70.0 (7th)
Interceptions: 9 (1st)
Sacks: 13 (T-7th)
Yards Lost on Sacks: 87 (7th)
Completions per Game: 23 (15th)
Incompletions per Game: 20 (1st)

 

Pick • Browns 20, Bills 17
Bills +4½
Under 41

 

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