Bills need to capitalize on Monday night

The Bills have hit a definite bump in the road to the playoffs. They dropped three-straight divisional games and have the perfect opportunity to end the streak Monday against the Browns. BFR's Marc Heintzman breaks it down inside...

Every Bills fan can agree that the past three weeks have been mighty humbling. Through week seven, the Bills were the darlings of the NFL and attracted praise at every turn for a well-rounded team that found ways to win. At 5-1, many had the Bills pegged to win the division outright and they were thought to have a firm control on the AFC East.

Well for three weeks straight, their division rivals thundered back and pounded the Bills to the bottom of the division. They currently sit at 5-4, with a 0-3 divisional record-hardly what any playoff-hopeful team wants going into week 11 of the season.

Buffalo's game this weekend against Cleveland provides the perfect opportunity for the team to turn their season around in the right direction again. Monday Night Football returns to Ralph Wilson Stadium after last year's thrilling, and terribly heart-breaking, game against Dallas. The Bills put on a show for the entire country by coming out and shocking the Cowboys into six turnovers, and nearly pulling off the biggest upset of the regular season.

They're facing a Browns team that has proven to be a great disappointment so far this season. Many expected the Browns to compete with Pittsburgh for the AFC North, but they've struggled mightily and sit second last in the division at 3-6. Both their offense and defense have been anything but spectacular, much like the Bills in recent weeks.

If you look at both teams' stats, they are very comparable and look to be very evenly matched. The game could very well end up like last year's Bills-Browns battle, a grind-it-out, physical match-up with an 8-0 decision. However, it seems the Bills could have the advantage this time.

One big reason is the Bills are at home on a Monday night. The Ralph is a treacherous place for opponents on any given day, but if last year's game is any indication, the place will be rockin' Monday. That is definitely not a good sign for second-year quarterback Brady Quinn, who started his first NFL game last week. The raucous Buffalo crowd forced one pretty-boy quarterback into five interceptions on a Monday night last year, they can do it again this year to another.

Another reason is the Bills seem like they have more to play for. They're a team that is desperately trying to prove themselves this season, to show people they belong in conversations about the NFL. Donte Whitner made the bold playoff prediction this summer, and nobody in that locker room wants to make a fool out of Donte Whitner. This team has rallied in tough times before, and they'll have to do it again to get out of their current funk.

Revenge could also serve as motivation for the Bills Monday night. It was the Browns who essentially ended the Bills' playoff hopes last year. Losing to the Browns on that snow-covered field last December probably still stings deep for some Bills players and they'd like nothing more than to avenge last year's loss and take one step closer to a postseason appearance this season.

The Browns on the other hand, seem to be in a state of complete disarray.

Not only did they bench their starting quarterback in favor of the fan-favorite Quinn, but their running back is now calling out teammates in the locker room. After their loss last week to Denver, Jamal Lewis was actually accusing some of his teammates of quitting and giving up. This is never a good sign for a team that is already struggling.

This may just be a guess, but I think Buffalo will be the more focused team on Monday night.

Nobody really knows what Bills team they will see on Monday night. Hopefully it will be the Bills of week one, when they pounded the Seahawks in a dominating display of team football. However, it could possibly be the Bills of weeks eight, nine and ten, when they let the rest of the AFC East have their way with them. What we do know is that the Bills are very capable of winning, and they have plenty of reasons to win this game against the Browns.

Either way, Buffalo's season may very well hinge on the outcome of this game. If they decide to capitalize on this opportunity to win, this could be the turnaround the Bills need to jumpstart the rest of their season. If they decide not to take advantage of this game and play the sloppy football they have been the past three weeks, this game could serve as another example of why the Bills don't belong in the postseason.

mdheintz@gmail.com


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