CLEVELAND, OH - A pair of losing streaks will collide on Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The Browns are looking to erase an eight-game losing streak going back to last year, while the Bills have lost eight-straight road games. Something has to give.
Sunday's game on the lakefront marks the 17th meeting between these two foes who share Lake Erie. The Browns have won 10 of the previous 16 games. The orange helmets are hoping last week's performances from rookies Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson are a sign of things to come. The Bills defense has struggled against the run, ranking 24th overall.
Keys: Run Trent Run. The rookie's touches have increased game by game as he works his way back. But there is no way you are going to keep Richardson off the field. He was asked what he says when the coaches want to know how he feels: "I'm good."
Head coach Pat Shurmur was asked about Richardson's response.
"I'm just going to quit asking him because he's a competitive guy. He's not the kind of guy that taps out. I don't want our guys tapping out, but we as coaches keep an eye on them and if we can get a fresh guy in there, we try to do that. I think that's good for our team, it's good for our city. Trent's one of those guys," Shrumur said.
It's no secret the Alabama rookie is going to have to run the ball a lot on Sunday to beat Buffalo. Control the clock and control the game.
Weeden has also proven the game has begun to slow down for him. I thought his touchdown throw to Greg Little was by far his best throw of the year. Showing patience, confidence and the rocket arm he was drafted for, all in one play.
Weeden will have to take another step forward, but he will need some help from his playmakers, including Mohamed Massaquoi, who may be the healthiest we have seen him in his four years in a Browns uniform. Massaquoi is the old man of this receiving corps and it's clear Weeden trusts him more then any receiver he has.
Defense: The Bills lead the NFL in rushing and are seventh overall in total offense. C.J. Spiller has been a nightmare for opposing offenses and Chan Gailey's spread offense has given opponents fits.
Bills lead the league with a league best 6.4 yards per carry and average a league best 198 yards rushing per game. The Browns defense ranks 18th against the rush, but has also recorded eight sacks through the first two games led by D'Qwell Jackson. He has three sacks and two interceptions to start the season.
Spiller will be a tough task to stop, one of the reasons he is averaging over 10 yards a carry. He's just the second player to do so in his first two games since the great Jim Brown averaged more than 11 back in 1963. It's because the Bills like to move him around and cause odd-man mismatches.
Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, former Bills head coach, was asked how the team will defend the elusive Spiller.
"You have to be disciplined and that's true in every area of the game. In the run game, you're going to have to hit your fits. There are a certain number of gaps obviously and you have to defend them," Jauron said. "They do a very good job of trying to confuse your gap control with their offensive scheme and they do a nice job of blocking it.
"Then, he (Spiller) has got great speed once he gets to the second level. It's hard to keep him off that level because he's fast to the edges too. They've done a really good job. I like the overall game. We just have to be very focused, tuned-in and play fast. You have to really play fast," Jauron said.
The defense needs to take the run away and force Ryan Fitzpatrick to beat them with his arm. Fitzpatrick is a mobile quarterback, who has yet to be sacked this year. Fitzpatrick has thrown for five touchdowns and three interceptions while he averages less then 200 yards passing a game.
This is a huge game for week three. You can't afford to go 0-3 and then hit the road to face Baltimore and the defending Super Bowl Champion N.Y. Giants. Sunday will go a long way to shaping this season.