The Cleveland Browns host the Buffalo Bills on Thursday Night Football. Both teams are off to surprising starts and sit at 2-2. The Bills defeated the Baltimore Ravens to get back to .500 this past weekend while the Browns are tied for first place in the AFC North after beating the Bengals for their second win in a row.
How did these two teams get into this position? Let's take a deeper look.
Meet the Cleveland Browns
So much for all that tanking talk. After trading away Trent Richardson and installing Brian Hoyer as the new quarterbacks, the Browns actually started looking better on offense. Hoyer is hardly a world-beater, but he's keeping the chains moving and driving the ball downfield. That is way more than what Brandon Weeden could do. The biggest benefactor of Hoyer has been tight end Jordan Cameron, who caught his fifth touchdown of the season in Week 4.
The real strength of the Browns is on defense. Barkevious Mingo has been a terror in his rookie year, getting three sacks in his three games and looking like a real difference-maker. Joe Haden is one of the best cornerbacks in the league and could have his way with Stevie Johnson on Thursday. If Hoyer keeps up his play, the Browns could make things really interesting in the AFC.
Meet the Buffalo Bills
E.J. Manuel has had his ups-and-downs, like most people expected when the Bills named the raw rookie their starter. He looks poised, if not quite polished yet, and is capable of delivering a pretty deep ball. The Bills could open up their offense if he continues to gain the coaches' trust.
They may have no choice this week if the running game doesn't show up. C.J. Spiller is dealing with an ankle injury and it's unknown if he will play on Thursday. Fred Jackson has an MCL sprain. He's going to play, but will have to wear a knee brace. The big bright star has been on defense where Kiko Alonso is quickly establishing himself as the heart of his unit.
Local Takes: Cleveland Browns
Zach J. Miller from Dawgs By Nature is rather ecstatic about the team's surprising start.
Cleveland now sits in a 3-way tie for 1st place in the AFC North. I would never have guess that after starting 0-2, trading Trent Richardson, and then naming Brian Hoyer the starter, that Cleveland would rip off 2 wins in a row and sit where they sit. It's been a fun past 2 weeks, so I hope we can keep it up.
If the defense can continue it's hot streak, and Brian Hoyer keeps riding this wave, I think Cleveland will be just fine. Crazy how things work out sometimes, but the momentum is now definitely on Cleveland's side. Wednesday there is Playoff baseball in Cleveland (Go Tribe!). And Thursday there's a national broadcast for the Browns. It's going to be a fun week in Cleveland.
Local Takes: Buffalo Bills
Brian Galliford of Buffalo Rumblings makes a case for linebacker Kiko Alonso winning Defensive Rookie of the Year.
In his first four pro games, Alonso has accumulated 32 tackles, the aforementioned four interceptions, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery (the latter two coming in the team's season-opening loss to New England). He's currently tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with cornerbacks Aqib Talib of New England and Alterraun Verner of Tennessee. Most impressively, he's been able to log his impressive start while playing every single snap on defense for the Bills.
There's a long way to go, to be sure, but Alonso has clearly and effectively stated his case for DROY early in his debut NFL season.
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