Now in 2012, the Bills have a chance Sunday to stop yet another long losing skid -- an 8-game stretch in which the Bills have been winless on the road. By now you've read all about it, but the Buffalo Bills haven't won in an opposing team's stadium since September 11, 2011 -- the home opener versus the Kansas City Chiefs last season.
Sunday serves as good of an opportunity to put an end to that trend facing off against the Cleveland Browns. Not only are the Browns winless on the season thus far, but their roster has been constructed with a rather youthful approach.
Here are some of the things to look for when the Bills take on the Browns in Cleveland:
1) Getting Spiller in space
- A very important piece to the puzzle for the Bills will be if they can get C.J. Spiller to the second-level with the opponent's game-planning for the third-year player. The Browns' defensive line are actually a very talented group up front and can get some penetration in the backfield. Middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson is very good at finding the correct gap and strong safety T.J. Ward will rush up to help in a hurry. With the way Spiller has been running the ball, the Browns will likely load the box if the Bills show a two tight end set. What the Bills may want to do is establish the pass early on to back off some of the run defenders, and then allow Spiller to roam the field from draws and cutbacks in the spread formation.
2) Weakened Browns secondary
- This subject plays in to the first point, because Spiller's running room and the sub-par Cleveland secondary go hand in hand. Through the first two games the Browns allow over 300 passing yards per game, ranking 28th in the NFL. Just this week, they've benched not one, but two of their opening day starters (Sheldon Brown and Eric Hagg) for poor play. Without the talented Joe Haden (serving the second of a four-game suspension Sunday) this unit really struggles to stay with their assignments. There could be a major opportunity for Ryan Fitzpatrick to have one of his most productive games of the season.
3) Ganging up on Richardson
- There's little doubt that Trent Richardson has everything it takes to be one of the better running backs in the NFL. He has the strength, speed and power that really makes scouts drool. In order to contain him, the Bills will need to have a gang mentality in stopping the run. Most weeks when they can get away with only Nick Barnett plugging the gap, he's going to need a helper to drag down the always forward-moving Richardson. The third-overall pick can bust a game wide open, making it a major challenge for this improved Bills run defense.
4) Weeden's tendencies
- Starting in his first year in the league, 28-year old rookie Brandon Weeden has an electric arm and can really zip passes in to tight spots. However, he has shown he's prone to turn the ball over -- and there's a major reason for that. After watching the first two regular season games, Weeden is very hesitant to go through the progressions with his receivers. He eyes down the defense and zeroes in on the target he believes has the best chance to come free. If that target is covered, more often than not, Weeden will dump it down to either Trent Richardson or Chris Ogbannaya. However, if that read is open, Weeden has all the talent it takes to get the ball there. If the Bills' young secondary can keep with their man, it creates a nice opportunity for the pass rushers to have another solid outing like they did against the Chiefs. Weeden will be looking for Mohamed Massaquoi most prominently, but Greg Little will figure in to the equation as well.
5) Mario faces a rookie
- Perhaps going under the radar throughout Buffalo, Mario Williams has yet another matchup that he can exploit. The Browns start second-round pick and rookie Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle. While he's a good fit for the style of offense the Browns run under Pat Shurmur, he's still green at this point of the season. Williams, while effective against the run against Kansas City, still hasn't shown the pass rushing prowess that the Bills signed him for through two games this season. With the type of matchup he's up against on Sunday, it could end up being the game Bills fans have been waiting for from their $100 million man.
OUT: HB Fred Jackson, WR Ruvell Martin
QUESTIONABLE: S Jairus Byrd
PROBABLE: LB Nick Barnett
OUT: LB James-Michael Johnson, TE Alex Smith
QUESTIONABLE: WR Joshua Cribbs, DE Juqua Parker, S Ray Ventrone
PROBABLE: T Oniel Cousins, WR Greg Little, LB Scott Fujita, HB Trent Richardson, DT Billy Winn
The game will be won for Buffalo if:
- Ryan Fitzpatrick gets started early, exploits the Browns' secondary and limits his turnovers.
- C.J. Spiller gets out in to the second-level where he has the opportunity to make people miss.
- The secondary forces Brandon Weeden to make a bad decision by way of sound coverage.
The game will be lost by Buffalo if:
- They can't wrap up Trent Richardson on first contact.
- The Browns aren't backed off from loading the box against C.J. Spiller.
- No pressure on Brandon Weeden off the edge, giving him all day to throw.
Prediction: Bills over Browns