Cleveland Browns: Drawing Up a Game Plan for Brandon Weeden vs. Bills
The cities of rust-belt America have never screamed so similar a tale of desperation to Win Games and Contend in the national sport.
The Browns lost nine of their last 10 games last season, as well as both games so far in 2012. They haven't tasted victory in the regular season since playing Jacksonville on Nov. 20, 2011.
The Bills lost eight of their last nine last season, and are 1-1 coming to Cleveland on Sunday.
The Bills are coming off a high-flying victory against Kansas City where they led 35-3 after three quarters.
The Browns are coming off of an effort featuring stark turnarounds on both the offense and defense, the first toward the competence end, the other towards its opposite.
At stake for the Browns in 2012 is the record for the most double-digit loss seasons in a row in franchise history. For the Bills, an eighth consecutive losing season.
The Bills haven't made the playoffs since 1999; the Browns since 2002.
Third-year Bills head coach Chan Gailey shares a similar seat temperature to that of second-year Browns HC Pat Shurmur.
So what's a rookie QB like Brandon Weeden to do?
This game will be won in the trenches. Buffalo features the number one rushing attack in the league heading into week three with C.J. Spiller putting in the yeoman's work on the ground.
Cleveland features a RB who just set a team record as a rookie for running over 100 yards and scoring TDs on a run and a pass (Stats LLC).
Weeden's whole raison d'être in this game will be to use the big arm the Browns drafted him for to make Chan's Bills pay for stacking the box.
This will make for an interesting test for Weeden. A frustration for Browns fans last season came with when the team sagged without an answer to the stacked-box question.
Weeden has had trouble connecting with fourth-round speedster rookie WR Travis Benjamin so far on this end, though he had success over the middle against the Bengals with WR Greg Little.
But if the Browns line can win in the trenches and they have moderate success pounding it with Richardson, Weeden should have the opportunity to stretch the field out vertically.
If he can connect on that, the Browns can put the Bills on their heels and have a good solid chance of keeping up on the scoring side of the equation.
With Browns starting CB Sheldon Brown suffering a neck stinger, and top-flight CB Joe Haden suspended, the Browns are counting on a variety of young CBs.
The Bills also feature young corners in rookie Stephon Gilmore and 2011 second-round pick Aaron Williams.
Both teams will use these facts to pick on each others secondaries. Smokin' Weeden has a chance to have a shootout. His aim will have to be more Cincinnati-true than Philadelphia-true.
If the Browns can pull off a victory Sunday in Cleveland, the confidence boost for the young team will manifest massive benefit as it looks to even-harder matches against the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants.
The Bills will be fighting just as hard to keep their season rolling with victories.
As Finley Peter Dunne's Mr. Dooley once surmised, in his timeless wisdom, "An' th' best man will win."
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