Two of the more surprising teams in the NFL will face one another in Cleveland on Thursday night. Buffalo wasn’t even sure if rookie quarterback E.J Manuel was going to be physically ready to play week one following surgery. Fast forward 4 weeks and the Bills are 2-2 and have had 4 highly competitive game giving Manuel a “baptism by fire” over the seasons first month. Most of the world assumed that The Browns were giving up on the present and focusing on the future when they traded stud RB Trent Richardson to the Colts for a 1st round pick. Since that move they have received a production in the running game from a variety of running backs. They have won 2 straight games after being easily beaten in their first two. Come Friday morning one of these team will have a fantastic chance at making a playoff run.
The Browns trade of Richardson happened to coincide with an injury to starting quarterback Brandon Weeden. They surprised many people by not turning to an experienced backup in Jason Campbell and instead opting to start third string quarterback Brian Hoyer who exploded in week 3 and managed the game extremely well in week 4. In a surprising upset of the Bengals, Hoyer threw 2 touchdown passes including one with 5 minutes left that gave them an 11 point lead. Hoyer is from Cleveland and grew up a Browns fan. He is getting to make his childhood dreams a reality. The biggest performance in the big win had to be from the Cleveland defense which held the Bengals to a mere 63 yards rushing while star cornerback did an admirable job an superstar wide receiver A.J Green. Even veteran running back Willis McGahee who was signed after Richardson was effective in the running attack. The Browns have a ton of momentum heading into Thursday night.
The Bills have had an up and down season thus far and find themselves at 500. The biggest step forward may have been early on in week 4 when new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s system seemed to kick in for the players. Five huge interceptions and multiple sacks have transformed a unit that has been a huge question mark since the departure of Mario Williams. On the offensive side they have the most productive running back combination in the league. While headed into the season it looked like Fred Jackson would be an afterthought and C.J Spiller would get the majority of the touches, they have found plenty of reps for both players. On Sunday Spiller had 23 carries for 77 yards while Jackson had 16 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown.
This is a vastly more interesting game than it appeared to be prior to the start of the season. It will be interesting to see how both teams respond to the national spotlight.
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