Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland Browns: Preview and Key Matchups To Watch
The 2-10 Buffalo Bills take on the Cleveland Browns this Sunday to take on Peyton Hillis and the rest of the Dawgs. Hopefully, it will be a more exciting game than last season's miserable 6-3 Browns victory; a game in which quarterback Derek Anderson completed two of 17 passes for 23 yards and an interception, and managed to earn a victory.
The Browns have been riding on the back (or biceps) of running back Peyton Hillis, who was acquired during the offseason in a trade for quarterback Brady Quinn, and are sitting in third place in the AFC North division, holding a 5-7 record.
This slideshow previews the most intriguing individual player vs. player matchups to keep an eye on as the game progresses.
Bills ILB's Paul Posluszny, Akin Ayodele Vs. Browns RB Peyton Hillis
Buffalo Bills linebacker Paul Posluszny has already racked up 111 tackles throughout the first 12 games of the season, despite missing two games due to injury. This inflated statistic is a direct correlation to the disappointing run defense of the Bills, ranked dead last in the National Football League, allowing 170.9 yards on the ground each game.
Peyton Hillis has had an explosive season since transitioning from the fullback position he played for the Denver Broncos, to a running back. Averaging 4.4 yards per carry, Hillis has rushed for 962 yards, scoring 11 times. He is also second in receiving on the Browns, adding 53 receptions for 436 yards and another two touchdowns.
Bills defensive end Dwan Edwards, the best run defender alongside Kyle Williams, is on injured reserve, so Posluszny and Ayodele will have a huge challenge taking down a powerful, downfield runner for the second week in a row.
Bills Interior Line Vs. Browns Defensive Line
Last week against the Minnesota Vikings, the Bills offensive line was destroyed, sending starting center Geoff Hangartner and guard Kraig Urbik to injured reserve. Now, the Bills will resort to sliding right guard Eric Wood, who is coming off an injury, to center. Rookies Cordero Howard and Ed Wang will be in a rotation at guard, while Mansfield Wrotto will play at right tackle.
In shorter terms, Ryan Fitzpatrick will most likely be in shotgun on passing downs, which will make it pretty difficult to confuse the Browns defense with runs.
The Browns also use a 3-4 defensive front, anchored by Ahtyba Rubin and Shaun Rogers. Rubin has had a solid season, making 55 tackles and two sacks.
Bills OLB Arthur Moats Vs. Browns LT Joe Thomas
Anybody that doesn't follow the Bills religiously has never heard of the rookie defensive end-turned inside linebacker-turned outside linebacker until last week, when he delivered a devastating blow to Brett Favre on his first pass attempt, knocking him out for the remainder of the game.
With the lack of depth the Bills have at the linebacker position (the Bills have lost seven to injured reserve this year), Moats will see a significant increase in his reps, especially on passing downs.
Joe Thomas is one of the best left tackles in the league, and his pass protecting ability is second to none. The Browns offensive line has allowed 27 sacks on the year, but the rookie linebacker will be in for a long day.
Bills NT Kyle Williams Vs. Browns C Alex Mack
Kyle Williams, or "Meatball," as many Bills fans like to call him, has been absolutely incredible in his transition from a 4-3 defensive tackle to the unheralded nose tackle position in the 3-4. He is having a Pro Bowl caliber year, making 64 tackles (nine for a loss) and has racked up five sacks, all while taking on two blockers.
Lining up across from Williams will be Alex Mack, a young but extremely talented center, that may be one of the best in the league. This matchup in the trenches will be brutal, and it will be exciting to see if Kyle Williams' relentless pursuit will be countered by Mack.
Bills Wide Receiving Corps Vs. Browns Secondary
With all of the talent at the Buffalo Bills wide receiver position and the Cleveland Browns secondary, I am compiling these matchups into one slide.
The Cleveland Browns are ranked 20th in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 231.1 yards per game through the air, while the Bills hold the 23rd ranked passing offense, gaining 203.9 pass yards per game.
Despite the low ranking, Cleveland has a load of talent in their secondary, featuring rookies Joe Haden and T.J. Ward, along with Sheldon Brown and Eric Wright.
Bills WR Lee Evans Vs. Browns CB Sheldon Brown
Lee Evans hasn't put up huge numbers this season with fellow wideout Stevie Johnson having a breakout year. Evans has caught just 37 of the 81 passes thrown to him for 578 yards and four touchdowns. However, he has shown his potential big-play ability, as displayed by his 15.6 yards per catch, gaining 20 or more yards nine times.
Sheldon Brown isn't one of the greatest corners in the league, but he has given many wide receivers headaches throughout his nine-year career. On the season, he has 48 tackles and two interceptions, and he has defended eight passes. He isn't as fast as he used to be, and you can expect to see Lee Evans find a way to get open on multiple occasions throughout the game.
Bills WR Steve Johnson Vs. Browns CB Joe Haden
Stevie Johnson has gotten a ton of press over the past two weeks, due to his drop in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which was followed by a series of harrassment from talk radio, beat writers, Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel and even The View.
Nonetheless, Johnson is the Bills' leading receiver, reeling in 61 passes for 832 yards and nine touchdowns. Stevie had another key drop on a crucial 3rd-and-9 last week against the Minnesota Vikings, so it will be interesting to see if Ryan Fitzpatrick will keep chucking it out to him.
If Ndamukong Suh wasn't laying out quarterbacks every other week, the unheralded rookie cornerback Joe Haden would be a serious contender for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He was promoted to the starting job over Eric Wright, and has proved his worth as a high first round draft pick. On the year, Haden has made 46 tackles while picking off five passes, and batting away 15.
Bills SS Donte Whitner Vs. Browns TE Benjamin Watson
Donte Whitner is tied with Paul Posluszny with 111 tackles on the season, a ridiculous stat that shows just how God awful the Bills run defense has been.
However, as bad as their run defense has been, their defense against opposing tight ends may be just as embarrassing. Throughout the first 12 games of the year, tight ends have caught 38 passes for 564 yards and eight touchdowns.
Benjamin Watson is the Browns' leading receiver, which means that he will be targeted early and often throughout the game, especially with the questions at the quarterback position. Watson has caught 50 passes for 574 yards, and scored three touchdowns on the year.
Donte Whitner and Chris Kelsay will really need to keep an eye on Watson, because once Peyton Hillis gets into a groove, there's no doubt that we'll see some play-action rollouts.
Bills RB Fred Jackson Vs. Browns ILB's Chris Cogong, Eric Barton
Buffalo Bills runnning back Fred Jackson was expected to take a backseat to Marshawn Lynch and C.J. Spiller prior to the season. However, his play has led to Lynch being dealt to the Seahawks, and Spiller's lack of improvement has kept him in the starting role.
Jackson, who averages 4.4 yards per carry, has rushed for 663 yards on 152 carries, while scoring five touchdowns. Furthermore, he has added 27 receptions out of the backfield for 188 yards and two more scores.
With the depleted offensive line of the Buffalo Bills, Jackson will need to use his patience, and allow plays to develop before heading up field.
Eric Barton and Chris Gocong, the Cleveland Browns inside linebackers, will have a pretty easy assignment this Sunday, as they should be able to shoot through the A gap (center) and shut down the running game.
The Browns are ranked 20th in rush defense, allowing 119.1 yards per game, but don't expect that total to be reached this week.