Tomorrow the Browns travel to Buffalo to play their Lake Erie neighbors, the Bills. The Browns, who are 5-7, will be looking to keep alive their long-shot quest for an elusive playoff spot. The Bills, who stand at 2-10, are playing for pride — but they’ve played a number of teams tough despite their record.
These are two pretty evenly matched teams. Both feature average offenses. The Browns are better on the ground, the Bills are better through the air, but neither team is an offensive juggernaut. Defensively, the Browns have the advantage. Buffalo has been capable against the pass, but has given up a lot of yardage on the ground and ranks last in the entire league in defending against the run. And, since the game is outdoors in Buffalo in December, we can expect the weather to play a role. Tomorrow’s forecast is for a cold rain and high temperatures in the 30s, which are not exactly conditions well-suited to run-and-shoot football. A few degrees’ change on the temperature scale, and we could be watching a game played in a lake-effect snowstorm.
Last week the Browns offense struggled against Miami, but the defense bailed them out time and again. Ultimately, the defense forced a turnover that put the Browns in position for Phil Dawson to kick a game-winning field goal as time ran out. I think the Browns will need the defense to lead the way again tomorrow. Offensively, the Browns no doubt will try to take advantage of Buffalo’s weak run defense. I would expect to see lots of Peyton Hillis running the ball — no surprise there — but also some wildcat formations featuring Josh Cribbs. Cribbs has been a non-factor on offense in recent games, and use of the wildcat formation will at least get him some touches.
At this stage in the season, the Browns need to keep their heads down and focus on doing whatever it takes to win the game in front of them. If they can win at Buffalo, they can at least stay in the playoff hunt for another week. Since the Browns came back into the NFL, there haven’t been many years where the games in December have meant anything. This year, so far at least, they do.