Dan Wetzel:

Game Scout: Bills at Browns

The SportsXchange

Buffalo Bills (2-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-2)

Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET, at FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland - TV: NFL Network

*TV announcers: Brad Nessler, Mike Mayock, Alex Flanagan

*Keys to the game: The Browns are 2-0 since dealing RB Trent Richardson to Indianapolis, but the turnaround has a lot more to do with their third-ranked defense than it does with the new tandem of QB Brian Hoyer and RB Willis McGahee. Cleveland's run defense has been suffocating, allowing only 79 yards per game, while Buffalo enters the game with RBs C.J. Spiller (ankle) and Fred Jackson (knee) likely limited if they suit up - potentially leaving the bulk of the carries to Tashard Choice. The trickle down affect puts more pressure on rookie QB EJ Manuel to move the chains through the air. Cleveland wants to get more out of its ground game, but coordinator Norv Turner admitted the Browns are "managing" it with limited personnel. Hoyer has shown the ability to push the ball down the field. The test for Buffalo's defense is to pressure Hoyer into mistakes before he can exploit the Bills' depleted secondary.

*Matchup to watch -: Bills WR Robert Woods vs. Browns CB Buster Skrine: With Joe Haden likely erasing Bills No. 1 WR Stevie Johnson, the rookie Woods must contribute. Skrine has stepped up the past two weeks, but also has a penchant for being too physical and drawing penalties.

*Player spotlight - Browns DE Barkevious Mingo: The rookie played all 68 defensive snaps last week with Jabaal Sheard sidelined with a knee injury, and is the first player in franchise history to record a sack in each of his first three NFL games. Sheard is expects to miss his second consecutive game.

*Fast facts: Bills rookie LB Kiko Alonso has four interceptions in the past three games. ... With a victory, Cleveland would be 3-2 for the first time in 12 seasons.


The focus in Cleveland has been on Brian Hoyer engineering two victories since Brandon Weeden was injured and Trent Richardson was shipped to Indy. But it has been the strength of the defense that is making the Browns competitive again, and Cleveland should be able to stuff Buffalo's ground game and make life difficult for rookie QB EJ Manuel in a one-sided offense.

*Our pick: Browns 23-16

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