Thursday, October 3, 2013
Buffalo Gameday, October 3, 2013
So the NFL believes that every team should get a primetime game, and this is the week Roger Goodell decided to throw the Buffalo Bills and their fans a biscuit. Behold, Thursday Night Football and Buffalo's lone appearance on coast-to-coast television this season (well, at least to those folks who actually get the NFL Network).
Their opponent: the Cleveland Browns.
Prior to the season, on paper, most NFL fans were not clearing their calendars in an effort to see this game. But, as it stands, both teams are 2-2 and looking to begin the second quarter of their seasons with a big conference victory.
Last Sunday, the Brownies shocked their intrastate rivals from Cincinnati, while the Bills picked off Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco an eye-popping five times en route to an upset victory in Orchard Park. So, as we approach kickoff from the Dawg Pound, this game has some unexpected sizzle.
It may be my imagination, but I feel like we've seen the Bills and Browns match up every year for the past decade. I mean, it's as if Buffalo and Cleveland are in the same division they play so often. I guess their near-annual clashes have a little something to do with both clubs finishing in the basement of their respective divisions, but I prefer not to dwell on that sobering reality.
Okay, so I did a little Googling and found out that my suspicion isn't too far off base. The Bills and Browns have gone head-to-head six times since 2004, including five times over the past six seasons. (Apparently the NFL gods decided we didn't need to see the Battle of Lake Erie during the 2011 season.)
And, wellp, most of these games haven't been Cindy Crawfords; more like Roseanne Barrs.
Last Year: In Week 3, the Bills raced out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead and defeated the Browns, 24-14, in Cleveland. Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed three TDs while Brandon Weeden threw two picks and was sacked four times.
2010: This one was only for the true fans. The 2-10 Bills defeated the 5-7 Browns by a 13-6 final in Orchard Park. Cleveland's Jake Delhomme went 12/20 for 86 yards and an INT...and the Browns still almost won. Rian Lindell kicked a pair of second-half field goals and Fred Jackson ran for 112 yards in the Buffalo victory.
2009: Seriously, this was one of the worst NFL games I've ever suffered through. Derek Anderson was Cleveland's QB that afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium and played probably the worst game a pro quarterback ever played (2/17 for 23 yards). But the Bills turned it over three times, including a fumbled punt by Roscoe Parish in the fourth quarter that set up Cleveland's winning FG. A 6-3 final. Both teams were fittingly 1-4 in the aftermath.
2008: A Week 11 Monday Night Football meeting in Western NY, and this one was wild. The Bills began the season 5-1, but the wheels were falling off the wagon by the time this game rolled around. Buffalo suffered a gut-wrenching 29-27 setback, their fourth straight loss. Trent Edwards threw 18 INTs on the night (okay, it was actually three), but his 1-yard QB sneak with 2:30 left in the game actually put the Bills in front. The Browns answered less than a minute later with Phil Dawson's 56-yard (56?!?) FG. In true Bills fashion, Rian Lindell missed a potential game-winner from 47 yards out with 43-seconds remaining.
2007: At 7-6 with an outside shot at the postseason, the Bills found themselves in the middle of an honest-to-goodness blizzard when the visited Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 16. Standford boy Trent Edwards played like he was afraid of the snowflakes, and the Bills were blanked by the Browns, 8-0. Bye-bye, playoffs.
2004: In the midst of what would become a seven-game winning streak, the Bills ran roughshod over the Browns, 37-7, in Cleveland. Willis McGahee scored a pair of TDs while the Buffalo defense sacked QB Luke McCown seven times. The Bills wound up with a 9-7 record in 2004; it still stands as their only winning record this century. Ouch.
So there you go. An abridged look at the recent history between these two teams that share shorelines on a badly polluted river. What bearing any of this has on tonight's game is beyond me. But, I like to fill space with all sorts of random Bills knowledge and opinion whenever I have the chance.
As far as tonight's game, well, the Cleveland defensive front is certainly a scary unit. They have put the shackles on pretty much every rushing attack they've faced this year, including the great Adrian Peterson. So it could be tough sledding for Fred Jackson and--if he suits up--CJ Spiller. But, Buffalo's defense is nothing to sneeze at, either, and they're coming off their best performance of the year. Factor all of that in with a pair of young QBs at the helm for each side, and you can probably bank on a low-scoring affair in Cleveland. Dare I say Roseanne-esque.
Call me a pessimistic fan, but I have bad feeling about this one for Buffalo. I hope I'm wrong, but I think the post-Richardson Browns and their new savior, Brian Hoyer, continue their winning trend. Plus, rookie EJ Manuel has to prove he can perform away from Ralph Wilson Stadium before I pick the Bills on the road.
My Week 5 Picks: I like the Giants (-2.0) to beat Philly and finally get their first win; the Saints (Pick 'Em) to stay perfect and tame the Bears at Soldier Field; and the Colts (+2.5) to upset the Seahawks.
Enjoy your NFL weekend!