Time: 1:00 pm, Sunday, October 11, 2009
Location: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
Network, Announcers: CBS- Don Criqui and Randy Cross.
Line: Buffalo by six.
Team W/L Records: Cleveland is 0-4; Buffalo is 1-3
Coaches: Eric Mangini is 23-29 overall, 0-4 with the Browns; Dick Jauron is 58-79 overall, 22-30 with the Bills.
Last Week for the Browns: Finally played a competitive game but once again came up short, as they failed to hold a 20-14 fourth-quarter lead and lost to the Bengals in overtime, 23-20. It was Cleveland's tenth consecutive loss dating back to last season.
Last Season for the Bills: Were bulldozed for 250 rushing yards in a lopsided 38-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
All-Time Series: Browns lead, 9-5.
Last Meeting- November 17, 2008: Jerome Harrison ripped off a 72-yard touchdown run and Phil Dawson hit five field goals, including a 56-yarder for the game-winning points, as the Browns got their last win to date, 29-27 over the Bills in Orchard Park. Despite four turnovers- three in the first quarter alone- Buffalo rallied from 13-0 and 23-13 deficits to take a 27-26 lead in the fourth quarter. The Bills had an opportunity to win the game at the end, but Rian Lindell was wide right on a 47-yard field-goal attempt with 38 seconds to go.
Out or Questionable for Buffalo: DE Chris Ellis (non-injury), LB Paul Posluszny (forearm), S Bryan Scott (ankle) and S Donte Whitner (thumb) are out; CB Ellis Lankster (back) is questionable.
Out or Questionable for Cleveland: K Phil Dawson (right calf) and LB D'Qwell Jackson (hamstring) are doubtful; RB Jamal Lewis (hamstring), S Mike Adams (groin), G Rex Hadnot (knee) and G Floyd Womack (ankle) are questionable.
What to watch for the Bills: If you ever need reminded that Cleveland isn't the only troubled spot in the NFL, simply look 200 miles northeast to Buffalo, where the frustration is boiling over. The Bills have lost eleven of fourteen since starting the 2008 season 5-1, and head coach Dick Jauron is feeling the heat even as the October chill descends on Western New York. Not much is going right for his team, especially offensively: the Bills are 26th in the NFL in total yardage, 28th in passing and have converted a woeful 23.4 percent on third down. Most of the responsibility for the team's offensive problems lies with an inexperienced, injury-riddled offensive line which has given up sixteen sacks, second most in the NFL. Buffalo hasn't exactly been stout defensively either; they've given up the fourth-most points in the league and are 27th in total defense. Put plainly, the Bills have stunk.
Naturally, Jauron has taken the lion's share of the blame for his team's terrible start. The ex-Bears coach has yet to compile a winning record in three-plus seasons in Buffalo, and the fans of the city Steve Buffum has dubbed "Beefalo" are pretty well fed up. Despite signing a contract extension in the off-season, it's reasonably to surmise that Jauron could find himself on the chopping block if he doesn't get things turned around soon. A loss at home to the awful Browns certainly won't be a boon to his job security. I'm not sure if it would be enough to get him fired, but frankly, if you lose to this Browns team, you probably deserve to get thrown out on your ass.
Even as desperate as the Browns are, the Bills probably need this game more, simply because of the tenuous situation of their head coach. One can imagine that it'll be a surly crowd that fills Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, what with the losing, the unpopular man in charge, and those whispers about relocation that won't go away. The only surprise in this threadbare match-up is that one of these lousy teams will actually come out a winner. Of course, the most appropriate result would be a tie, with fans on both sides going away unhappy.
What to watch for the Browns: The big story this week, of course, was the merciful end to the Braylon Edwards Saga in Cleveland. The mercurial wide receiver finally punched his ticket out of town when he allegedly cold-cocked LeBron James's diminutive friend Edward Givens outside the View nightclub early Monday morning. Rumors about abortive trade scenarios involving BE have been flying around at least since draft day, but the consummated deal, hard on the heels of the incident outside the View, has a straw-breaking-the-camels-back feel to it.
(By the way, Braylon vs. LeBron might be the biggest mismatch since Rumania declared war on Germany in 1916. Braylon would have been better served picking a fight with, say, Kelly Shoppach. Of course, if you want to get run out of Cleveland, throwing down the gauntlet with the most popular man in the city was probably the best course of action. One silver lining to this tawdry imbroglio: no Adrian Wojnarowski stories about how LeBron is dying to join his buddy Braylon in New York in 2010.)
The immediate effect Braylon's departure will have on Cleveland's offense is uncertain. On one hand, as ineffective as he's been the last year or so, Braylon did have to be accounted for when he was on the field. Mohamed Massaquoi benefited from the extra attention Cincinnati's secondary gave Braylon when he went off for 148 yards on eight catches last week. Those double-teams and rotating safeties will be coming Massaquoi's way from here on out.
On the other hand, any value Braylon had as a decoy and potential threat was offset by the simple fact that, on the field and off, he was a gigantic pain in the keister. The man was more trouble than he was worth. On a playoff contender stocked with responsible veteran professionals who set a positive tone in the locker room and on the practice field, you can live with a guy like Braylon Edwards. When you're young, leadership-deprived and, most of all, winless, you can't- or at any rate, you don't have to. After all, this team can just as easily score twelve points a game without him.
Personally, I was generally a little easier on BE than most of the rank-and-file fans of this football team. I always thought there was more than a grain of truth to his claim that his Michigan background made him a "marked man." I believe his personality as well as his performance played a role in his unpopularity in this city. Cleveland fans aren't comfortable with flashy types, especially at the receiver position. They like their Brian Brennans and their Reggie Ruckers- blue-collar players without pedigree who perform with a maximum of sweat and a minimum of hot-dogging. Frankly, I sensed a lynch-mob mentality toward BE; a dislike that was a little out of proportion to whatever sins he committed on and off the field.
At any rate, I don't think it's appropriate to rejoice over the fact that Braylon is now someone else's problem. There should be no celebrating the demise of yet another highly drafted player for this football team. The best thing for this organization, for this fan-base and for this city was for Braylon to make it here, in Cleveland. But he didn't, just as Tim Couch didn't, just as Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren didn't. We just erected yet another tombstone in the graveyard of Browns first-rounders, and it isn't something to crow about.
Oh well. We move on.
Good Past Win over the Bills- December 7, 1986: Kevin Mack pounded for 65 yards and two touchdowns and Bernie Kosar found Brian Brennan for another score as the first-place Browns conquered the Bills, 21-17, on a bitterly cold day in Rich Stadium. Mack scored both of his touchdowns in the first half as Cleveland built a 14-3 lead at intermission, then survived a second-half aerial assault from Jim Kelly, who threw two scoring passes in the final thirty minutes, including a 75-yard bomb to Chris Burkett on the opening play of the third period.
Bad Past Loss to the Bills- November 1, 1981: Buffalo running back Joe Cribbs single-handedly out-gained the Browns as the Bills muscled their way to a 22-13 victory. Cribbs rushed for 85 yards, caught five passes for 163 yards, and scored three touchdowns on receptions from Joe Ferguson, including long ones of 60 and 58 yards. Brian Sipe did not fare so well: he completed only 14 of 37 passes, was intercepted three times, sacked six times, and was beaten into such a punch-drunk state that at one point he staggered toward the wrong sideline.
Next Week for Both Teams: Buffalo travels to the Meadowlands to take on the Jets; Cleveland visits Pittsburgh.
Trivia: A loss for the Browns on Sunday would tie the franchise record for consecutive defeats at eleven. The record was set over the final two games of the 1974 season and the first nine games of the 1975 season.