By Scott Taylor and Dave Petrishen
There would seem to be a whole lot of people who believe in EJ Manuel and Brian Hoyer. You could probably count both of us on that list.
However, the numbers would not suggest that either one of them is even close to being an elite NFL quarterback.
Still, after two weeks at the helm of the Browns, Hoyer has a pair of wins, over Minnesota (on the road) and Cincinnati (at home), and while he’s 31st in the league with an 83.2 rating, he’s ahead of the Browns alternative, Brandon Weeden, who is 42nd with a rating of 62.0. Meanwhile, Manuel is 2-2 as the No. 1 quarterback in Buffalo even though his rating of 80.2 pits him in 34th place.
So here’s the deal, neither of Thursday night’s starting quarterbacks is particularly good, but both teams have been blessed with improved defenses and that’s why Thursday night’s internationally televised matchup will be better than one might expect.
Hoyer is 55-for-92 (59.8 per cent) for 590 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions while Manuel is 74-for-130 (56.9 per cent) with five touchdowns and three interceptions. Those numbers are not great, but when you consider that their two clubs are 2-2 and still in the conversation for first place in their respective divisions, you have to give somebody credit.
The Browns defense has allowed only 70 points in four games, seventh in the NFL while Buffalo as allowed 93 points, good enough for 17th place. No, these teams aren’t the best, but defensively, they aren’t bad. In fact, the Browns have allowed an average of only 291.5 yards in the first four games of the season. That’s third best in the entire NFL. The Browns do not have an elite quarterback but they do have an elite defense.
And that’s why they will win the Thursday night matchup with Buffalo.
This week is being billed as Statement Week in the NFL. After all, there are some tremendous games – New England at Cincinnati, the Lions at Green Bay, Seattle at Indianapolis, Denver at Dallas, Houston at San Francisco, Kansas City at Tennessee, New Orleans at Chicago and Baltimore at Miami.
That’s a great lineup. Granted, Cleveland-Buffalo is not one of “those” games. It’s definitely not what one might consider Game of the Week material. However, these teams are evenly matched and that should give us an entertaining football game.
And really isn’t that what you’re after when it’s Thursday night and there is beer and popcorn to crush?
Oh, yeah, and there is also money to win.
Last week Dr. Football went 10-5 (44-19) straight up and 9-6 (30-33) against the spread. The Coach, meanwhile, went 12-3 straight up (44-19) and 12-3 (34-29) against the spread.
This week, the Doc prepares our rationalized guesses while the Coach watches the baseball playoffs and eats Funyuns. By the way, like The Coach, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa and Washington have this week’s byes.
Buffalo Bills (2-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-2) Line: Browns by 4.5.
When the schedule came out this one looked like a good reason to watch Grey’s Anatomy…who would of thought that both teams would be 2-2? The Bills fluked one out last week against the Ravens, a fading team that turned over the ball five times. The Browns Brian Hoyer should not have any issues winning this one; Buffalo’s secondary is horrible due to injuries. But the Bills are gritty, and they’ll keep up for a while at least. The Coach says: This will be proof that Baltimore (the team Buffalo beat last week) lost more weapons than anyone imagined this past off-season.
The Doc: TAKE CLEVELAND TO WIN BUT NOT COVER.
The Coach: TAKE CLEVELAND TO WIN AND COVER.