Tale of 2 teams: 2-6 Browns kick off homestand against 6-2 Bills

Kareem Hunt returns from 8-game suspension

Daryl Ruiter
November 09, 2019 - 7:02 pm

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

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Cleveland, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The upstart Buffalo Bills roll into Cleveland riding high at 6-2 while the 2-6 Browns are searching desperately for answers.

After losing 24-19 to Brandon Allen, who threw 2 TD passes in his first ever NFL action, last week in Denver, who knows what to expect from the Browns this week as they kick off a 3-game homestand and will play 5 of their final 8 at home.

The Bills have played just 2 teams above .500 this season and lost both games – 16-10 to New England and 31-13 to Philadelphia.

Under first year head coach Freddie Kitchens, the Browns, who were expected by many to end the longest playoff drought in the league this year, have been the NFL’s biggest flop in 2019.

Cleveland has lost 4 in a row for the 12th consecutive season and the franchise has lost 4 or more in a row 20 times since 1999. A victory would mark just the third time in the expansion era the team was able to avoid a fifth consecutive defeat.

What to watch for – Running back Kareem Hunt makes his Browns debut following an 8-game suspension from multiple off the field transgressions. He should assume the role held by Dontrell Hilliard as the third down back and provides Kitchens with another weapon to throw at opposing defenses. Hunt is paired with fellow back Nick Chubb, who is fourth in the NFL with 803 rushing yards this season and his 5.2 average per carry ranks tied for fourth.  

Unfortunately, Odell Beckham Jr. has made more headlines with his watches, visors and cleats than touchdowns this season and it’ll be interesting to see what he does Sunday that will have the NFL up in arms for no reason. While the star receiver leads the Browns in catches and receiving yards to date, his production hasn’t met expectations to date because Baker Mayfield has regressed in his sophomore season, and the ball isn’t getting to Beckham in critical situations. Mayfield is just 14 of 39 (35.9%) inside the 20 with 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Inside the 10 Mayfield is just 4 of 20 (25.00%) and not many of those targets have gone in the direction of No. 13.

Buffalo’s defense is ranked in the top 10 in several key categories, including allowing the third fewest average points per game at 16.4 while the Browns offense is ranked 25th in scoring at 19.0 points per game. Something must give Sunday.

Chad Thomas, a 2018 third-round pick, makes his first NFL start after essentially being a forgotten man Sunday in place of Pro Bowler Olivier Vernon. Vernon recorded sacks in each of the last 2 games, but he is sidelined with a knee injury suffered last week at Denver.

Myles Garrett is sitting on 10.0 sacks, ranked second in the NFL, yet he’s not taken over and wrecked a game this season defensively. The Browns need him to explode against the Bills with Vernon down. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has challenged his unit to start delivering in critical moments, which has been a problem this season.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen might be the most improved of the heralded QB class of 2018 here in 2019. Allen is completing just under 61% of his passes this season with a 10-7 TD to interception ratio. He’s been sacked 21 times this season and has 10 fumbles this season, 18 in 20 career games. Forcing turnovers has not been a strong suit this year for the Browns defense but opportunity knocks Sunday.  

Last week – Bill beat Washington 24-9; Browns lost to Broncos 24-19

Last Time – Dec. 12, 2016: Bills 33, Browns 13   

Series – Browns lead the all-time series 11-9 dating back to 1972 but the Bills lead 5-4 in the expansion era

Memorable Moment – The Browns have won just 97 games since 1999 but one of their most memorable victories came in a blizzard on Dec. 16, 2007. Jamal Lewis plowed his way for 163 yards through the snow and kicker Phil Dawson booted a pair of field goals – a 35 yarder and a boomerang shot from 49 that skidded on the crossbar and through in the 8-0 victory.

Rankings – Points scored: Bills 22 (19.8), Browns 25 (19.0)

Yards: Bills 23 (336.0), Browns 19 (346.0)

Rushing: Bills 11 (129.4), Browns13 (121.0)

Passing: Bills 26 (206.6), Browns 17, (225.0)

Points allowed: Bills 13 (16.4), Browns 23 (25.6)

Yards allowed: Bills 3 (296.3), Browns 18 (357.5)

Rushing yards allowed: Bills 19 (111.6), Browns 30 (141.3)

Passing yards allowed: Bills (3 (184.6), Browns 6 (216.3)

Turnover ratio: Bills 18t (-1), Browns 28 (-8)

Probable Starters – Offense: WR Odell Beckham Jr., TE Pharaoh Brown, LT Justin McCray, LG Joel Bitonio, C JC Tretter, RG Eric Kush, RT Chris Hubbard, QB Baker Mayfield, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Antonio Callaway, RB Nick Chubb

Defense: DE Myles Garrett, DT Larry Ogunjobi, DT Sheldon Richardson, DE Chad Thomas, WILL Mack Wilson, MIKE Joe Schobert, CB Denzel Ward, CB Greedy Williams, CB TJ Carrie, FS Justin Burris, SS Morgan Burnett

Injury report – OUT: DE Olivier Vernon (knee), S Eric Murray (knee)

Questionable: TE Ricky Seals-Jones (knee), S Damarious Randall (hamstring), OT Kendall Lamm (knee)

Expected to play: DE Myles Garrett (knee), LG Joel Bitonio (back), WR Odell Beckham Jr. (groin), WR Jarvis Landry (shoulder), LT Greg Robinson (ankle), TE Pharaoh Brown (concussion)

Uniforms – Brown jerseys, orange pants

Broadcast – Radio: 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX and the University Hospitals Cleveland Browns radio network. TV: WOIO Ch. 19 TV

Kickoff – 1:03 p.m. – FirstEnergy Stadium – Cleveland, Ohio  

Our prediction – Browns 20, Bills 19

Our prediction record – 4-4