Top 3 Individual Matchups
2. Stevie Johnson vs. Joe Haden – Johnson is looking to re-emerge as Buffalo’s go-to guy in the passing game after an outing that wasn’t good for anyone on the Bills offense last week. Cleveland’s top pick last April comes into the game hot with interceptions in each of his last four games.
Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage – Pass defense – Due in part to a quarterback position in flux, Cleveland is ranked 27th in the league in passing. Buffalo has fared well in defending the pass ranking 10th in the league in passing yards allowed per game. They come into Sunday’s game off their best takeaway day of the season with four interceptions against the Vikings.
Best advantage - Third down offense – The Browns are 20th against the pass and 23rd in third down defense.
Bills Number 1 Must
Ball security – Buffalo has the third most fumbles in the league this season with 24 and ranks fifth in the NFL in fumbles lost with 11, including four last week. On a day that’s forecast to be wet and cold with a rain-snow mix, the Bills cannot cough up the football and expect to win what could largely be a field position type game.
The Browns come in winners of their last two straight with both victories pulled out in the waning seconds. Cleveland beat Miami last week on a 23-yard Phil Dawson field goal as time expired. The week before the Browns beat Carolina 24-23 after Dawson hit a 41-yard field goal with 2:46 left and the Panthers’ John Kasay missed a 42-yarder as time expired.
It’s the first time since 1986 that the Browns have won back-to-back games decided by three points or less.
The definition of workhorse back might best be exemplified by Browns tailback Peyton Hillis. Accounting for more than a third of the offense’s total yardage this season (36%), Hillis has almost 1,400 yards from scrimmage in 12 games, which ranks fifth best in football. He also has more than half the touchdowns this season for the Browns with 13 of the team’s 25 scores.
He stands second in the league in receptions for a running back with 53, which also leads the Browns and ranks first in third-and-one rushing percentage going a perfect nine for nine this season.
When he played for the New York Jets, Abram Elam was a Bills killer. In 2008 he helped beat the Bills twice. He had a 92-yard interception return to help rally the Jets to a 26-17 victory over the Bills in Buffalo. Then at the Meadowlands he sacked a scrambling J.P. Losman forcing a fumble which was returned for a game-winning touchdown later that season 31-27.
Elam has played some of his best football the past three weeks with 20 tackles, two interceptions, a pair of sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble return for a touchdown.
Cleveland is third in the AFC in takeaway-giveaway margin this season, as they stand at a plus-7 after 12 games. A big reason why is their 26 takeaways, which ranks fourth best in the NFL. Since Week 7 the Browns lead the league with 14 interceptions and are tied for the league lead in takeaways during that six-week span with 18 total takeaways.
The Browns boast one of the league’s most successful punters in Reggie Hodges. He’s currently tied for second in the AFC with a 39.4 net punting average. He also leads the league with punts downed inside the 10-yard line with 13 thus far this season. To put that number in perspective,
Cleveland has also been proficient in blocking field goals this season, swatting away three attempts already. DL Shaun Rogers is is a key part of the field goal block unit as he leads the NFL with 14 blocks in his career. He has one of Cleveland’s three blocks this season.
The Browns offense is a very respectable eighth in the league in first quarter scoring putting up 60 points in the first stanza thus far this season. Even more impressive is Cleveland’s first quarter defense. They’ve allowed just 26 first quarter points all season, which is tied for third fewest in the league. In their last six games Cleveland has outscored their opponents 44-13 in the first quarter.
Quote of the Week
“I’m excited to come back and play center. It’s more of a natural position for me. I played it all through college. Guard is a lot of fun, you get to throw your weight around a little bit more. Center is a position that I loved in college and I’m excited to getting back to playing it.”
--OL Eric Wood
Stat of the Week
Milestones in reach
Ryan Fitzpatrick one touchdown pass this week to mark his 14th straight game with a scoring toss. It would make it the longest streak by a Bills QB since Jim Kelly’s 18-game stretch from 1986-87.
Fred Jackson needs 149 yards from scrimmage for 1,000 this season.
Over the last two seasons the Cleveland Browns currently hold the longest active winning streak for wins in December and January with five.