Browns-Bills Preview

The Cleveland Browns have won two consecutive games to pull to 2-2 overall and tie the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals for first in the AFC North.

I think it is safe to say we were all wrong.

Tank? What tank?

Starting a third string quarterback. Trading Trent Richardson. No worries. The Browns had everyone right where they wanted them.

The Cleveland Browns have won two consecutive games to pull to 2-2 overall and tie the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals for first in the AFC North.

And now, the Browns play host to the 2-2 Buffalo Bills in their only nationally televised primetime game this season.

And it's a big game.

While still early, there are parallels to 2007. That season, the Browns were humiliated in their opening game at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-7. The next day the Browns traded their starting quarterback Charlie Frye to Seattle.

The Browns would go on to win 10 games.

Do they have 10 wins this year? That 2007 team had a potent offense, but an average defense. Six years later, the Browns defense is proving they are among the best in the NFL while the offense is doing just enough. That just enough has led to two victories.

How can the Browns get three?

In the last two weeks, that Browns' defense has slowed two of the game's most dynamic offensive players — Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green.

The Bills' star offensive player is running back C.J. Spiller, but he is questionable this week with an ankle. Similar to Minnesota two weeks ago, the key Thursday is forcing the opposing team's quarterback to beat you. Christian Ponder failed and the Browns won. What about rookie E.J. Manuel?

In four career starts, the Bills' first-round pick has looked … not bad. He has completed 56.9 percent of his passes for 856 yards and three interceptions. But he is still a rookie and prone to making mistakes.

Meanwhile, the Browns' "rookie-like" quarterback, Brian Hoyer, limited his mistakes in the win last Sunday over the Bengals. No turnovers. Two touchdown passes and he led two drives of more than 90 yards. Can't ask for much more.

Hoyer will face a defense that intercepted Joe Flacco five times last Sunday, but Buffalo had four cornerbacks listed on Wednesday's injury report.

With a chance to go to 3-2, it is not an exaggeration to say this game is big. It could be the biggest home game since Nov. 14, 2010. That day felt like a playoff game. The Browns were coming off two big wins over the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots and playing host to the 6-2 New York Jets.

A Browns win would improve Cleveland to 4-5 and keep them in the playoff hunt.

They lost in overtime 26-20.

Thursday's crowd, some of which attended the Indians' playoff game Wednesday night, is expected to be even more intense than what was on display three years ago.

It seems when the expectations rise for the Browns, the results are inevitably disappointing. If things truly are changing for Browns football, a win Thursday night would go a long way to establishing a new, winning culture in Cleveland.


What tank?

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