Tweaks the Browns, Bills and Raiders Must Make Heading into Week 2
They are the most downtrodden, perennially disappointing and downright dysfunctional organizations in the NFL.
To most, they're irrelevant in the grand scheme of today's NFL.
Unfortunately, the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders have some of the most passionate and dedicated fans in the league, who, collectively, haven't witnessed a playoff victory since the 2002 AFC Championship Game.
Yeah, that long ago.
Draft blunders, heartbreaking defeats and the lack of stability at the quarterback position have defined these clubs over the last decade. And all three lost in Week 1 of the 2012 season.
So, what exactly do these victimized teams need to do to rebound in Week 2?
Let's break it down.
Brandon Weeden can't throw four interceptions. There. Case closed.
In all seriousness, though, Weeden absolutely must improve in the accuracy department. But that's obvious.
Outside of Weeden playing with a more calm and collected demeanor, the Browns must get Trent Richardson going against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Yes, Marvin Lewis' club does have a stout defensive front, but the Baltimore Ravens were able to run for 5.3 yards per carry on Monday Night Football against it.
Richardson may not be at 100 percent, but he was drafted to be the focal point of the offense. 19 carries for 39 yards won't cut it.
Emphasizing the run and giving Weeden more play-action passes will undoubtedly make the Browns at least respectable on offense. Their defense was tremendous against the Eagles, but with Joe Haden suspended, they can't expect to be as stingy against the pass.
The Bengals are a good team, but they are certainly beatable.
A stronger running game, less risks being taken by Weeden and the defense playing the same way it did in Week 1 will significantly increase the chances that Cleveland is competitive in Week 2.
The Bills were trounced by the New York Jets in Week 1, and the thrashing was the result of a poor outing by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, the lack of a consistent pass rush and atrocious secondary play.
Fred Jackson's out for this one, as is David Nelson, the team's formidable slot target, who tore his ACL against New York.
That means C.J. Spiller will take over the feature back duties and should be the team's top offensive priority in the foreseeable future. He toted the rock 14 times and rattled off 169 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown, against a Jets defense that many believe is one of the better run-stopping units in football.
Spiller faces a Chiefs defense that allowed only 3.7 yards per rush against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1.
Chan Gailey can stick with his patented spread offense, but he must prominently feature Spiller, which will alleviate pressure from Fitzpatrick and keep him out of many precarious situations.
Along with that, rookie speedster T.J. Graham must be implemented into the offense. The opposition has caught onto Gailey's short and quick passing attack, and the former N.C. State track star possesse the acceleration to separate from defensive backs and stretch the field.
Lastly, and most importantly, the Bills have to design new blitz packages to get after Matt Cassel. Either that, or defensive line stunts must be added to the game plan—something to change things up defensively. Mark Sanchez went unscathed in Week 1, thus leading to his big day.
If Buffalo leans on Spiller, occasionally stretches the field and puts a defensive onus on rushing the passer, it will be back on track.
The Raiders defense did enough to beat the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football. It held Philip Rivers and Co. to a mere 258 total yards, which included a pedestrian 32 yards rushing.
The offense and special teams, well, they were a different story.
Three botched punts will never get it done. Neither will 42 yards on the ground.
Carson Palmer actually turned in an admirable performance.
In Week 2, Oakland goes on the road to Miami to face a Dolphins team fresh off its own forgettable Week 1 showing.
The Raiders must not give up on Darren McFadden and the running game, even though the Dolphins allowed 2.4 yards per rush against a mighty Houston team. Once Run DMC gets into a rhythm, he's hard to stop, and his production will keep Oakland's seemingly strong defense as fresh as possible.
Ryan Tannehill has talent, but is making just his second start, and doesn't have an extremely talented group of receivers at his disposal. The Raiders must take advantage of that by disguising and, eventually, sending different blitzes his way.
Oh yeah, and they must be more disciplined.
From top to bottom, Oakland has more talent than Miami. If the Raiders continue to run McFadden, build off their stout defensive game against the Chargers and stay away from silly penalties, they should be in a great position to get their first win of the year.
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