Cleveland Browns (7-4 SU, 6-3-2 ATS) vs. Buffalo Bills (6-5 SU, 5-6 ATS)
NFL Week 13
Date and Time: Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 1:00PM EST
Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
by Scott, NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CLE +1/BUF -1
Over/Under Total: 41
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In a battle of two of bigger surprises in the AFC, the Cleveland Browns travel to Ralph wilson Stadium to face the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo moved to 6-5 with a dominant Monday night 38-3 win over the New York Jets in Detroit after their home game was snowed out. The Browns are a major surprise at 7-4 and narrowly beat Atlanta on Sunday. Not many people would have forecasted that both of these teams would be above .500 this late in the season.
Apparently, the snow is gone and the weather has cleared up for Buffalo to stage this home game. But on a short week and with all the hassle of last week, did it leave Buffalo a bit depleted this week? Whipping up on the hopeless Jets was by no means a challenging or particularly draining game, but last week was one big mess and its fair to wonder if the Bills have been run a bit ragged.
The Browns nearly blew it on Sunday, with two Brian Hoyer interceptions allowing Atlanta to overcome a 9-point 4th quarter deficit to take the lead late. A Billy Cundiff field goal with time running out saved a win. Whatever it takes. After all, with a team like the Browns who have had so little success for years and years, its a bit silly to get too picky with how they win games. The fact that theyre winning games is a bonanza for this long-suffering franchise. Theyve done awfully well to get to 7-4.
After being out for ten games (all season) for a suspension, Browns WR Josh Gordon certainly didnt waste any time getting back into the fold. On Sunday, he had 8 catches for 120 yards. It could take Clevelands offense to another level having a consistent playmaker like Gordon in there going down the stretch. This offense hasnt dazzled, but theyre better than people assume. Its a balanced offense that typically takes care of the ball. Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell are forming into a nice combo at running back, with ten combined touchdowns. Receivers Andrew Hawkins, rookie Taylor Gabriel, and Miles Austin have all been productive, though Gordon will take some touches from that group. Still, they should benefit from looser coverage.
How far can a team go with Hoyer under center? He has a ton of guts. And when the situation calls for some clutch play he comes through more often than not. A team that has stunk forever is now 7-4 on his dime. That takes a lot of ability and mental fortitude. With 652 yards passing in the last two games, hes been prolific, but he has thrown 4 picks in the last two games, including 3 on Sunday and 2 a few weeks before that. He has also coughed up the ball a few times. Were starting to hear rumblings about Johnny Manziel getting in there, but that might be a rash decision by a coach in Mike Pettine who isnt a guy prone to impulsive decisions.
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Again, one shouldnt be overly-picky with Cleveland. They have been stout against the pass, ranking 9th in the league. But against the run, theyve been leaky, ranking a dismal 29th. They are 8th in total points allowed, with under 20 per game. Theyve lost some key guys, with interception leader Tashaun Gipson out indefinitely and Karlos Dansby likely out. Cleveland is second in interceptions, having picked off opposing quarterbacks 15 times this season.
Buffalos defense is really good against the pass and run, ranking in the top ten in both areas. They are 4th in points allowed and total yardage. They can pressure the quarterback and have a monstrous total of 46 sacks through 11 games. They have picked off opposing quarterbacks 13 times and are 4th in the NFL in turnover ratio. Theyve given up only 38 points in their last 3 games.
Kyle Orton has injected some life into this Bills offense at quarterback, with 12 TD throws against only 3 interceptions. In 7 starts, he is nearing 2000 yards. He hasnt thrown a pick in 4 games and was excellent against the Jets on Monday. But not having CJ Spiller has hurt and the bottom line is that this offense is pretty mediocre–20th in passing, 23rd in the run, and 19th in points scored with just over 21 per game. The ground-game and return game are hurting with Spiller out. WR Robert Woods had a huge game on Monday, but rookie Sammy Watkins has been slowed with injuries, slowing what looked to be a rapid ascent into the NFL wide receiver hierarchy. To make a meaningful run, theyre going to need to have everyone at full-power. This offense simply cant lose more valuable pieces of manpower.
This has the looks of a well-contested game played with a lot of emotion. The playoff run begins now. It could come down to any number of different factors. But at the end of the day, I see the Buffalo defense getting a couple big plays, a few more big stops, and helping tip things in the Bills favor at home.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Buffalo Bills minus 1 point.