Bills at Browns
Interesting contrast between the paths that EJ Manuel and Brian Hoyer took to their current places as starting QBs in tonight’s contest. Manuel, 23, a rookie first-round pick, won the Bills’ starting job almost by default when Kevin Kolb sustained a concussion in the preseason. Hoyer, who turns 28 next week, was not drafted, is in his 5th year as a pro, and has spent his career primarily holding a clipboard for both the great (Tom Brady) and the cover-your-eyes awful (every other starting QB in on the Cardinals last season). Oddly enough, Manuel has one more career start than Hoyer. Manuel has been brilliant, while leading his team to two victories (including a late comeback against Carolina), as well as erratic, as you would expect a rookie to be. Hoyer assumed the starting role for the Browns after Brandon Weeden was injured, and has played well in leading his team to two consecutive victories after starting 0-2. Both have given their respective teams’ fans hope that they have finally found offensive leaders who can turn their moribund franchises around. I’m certain there are plenty who would say that tonight’s game isn’t worth watching, but I see it as an intriguing matchup between two teams with potentially bright futures, especially if Manuel and Hoyer can live up to the hype and the hope.
This should be a close game. Both teams have plenty of talent on defence. The Browns are tough against the run, while the Bills have a disruptive pass rush. I like the Browns a bit more on offence right now; Hoyer has been steady, and he has a dangerous weapon at his disposal in TE Jordan Cameron, who has broken out with 30 catches and 5 TDs. Also, despite the fact that both teams are 2-2, Cleveland has been the more consistent. Even with the awful Weeden at QB, the Browns still managed to be competitive against Miami and Baltimore; with Hoyer, they put up 31 points against the Vikings then beat the favoured Bengals. The Bills lost to the Jets despite New York’s historically undisciplined performance (20 penalties for 168 yards), and barely beat the Ravens even though Joe Flacco threw FIVE interceptions. Add a stadium full of suddenly hopeful fans, and the scale tips decidedly in Cleveland’s favour. Winner: Browns