The Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills will meet in a wacky neutral site game in Week 11. Due to a massive snowstorm in Buffalo, the two teams will meet in Detroit at Ford Field. The Browns are looking to get their fourth win of the season, while the Bills look to end a two-game skid after a tough loss to the Minnesota Vikings last week.
The Browns will be getting two starters back in tight end David Njoku and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, while the Bills will be without three defensive starters in this matchup. What are the biggest storylines that follow these teams to Michigan?
Who will play in the nickel?
Browns vs. Bills. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
With Greg Newsome set to miss this matchup with a concussion, the Browns now have to figure out who will play nickel for them. As the Browns play in nickel on about 75 percent of their defensive looks, the Browns will need to find another defensive back to fill a massive void.
When the Browns kick into nickel, they bring rookie cornerback Martin Emerson onto the field along the boundary. The problem the Browns face, however, is that he, Greedy Williams, and A.J. Green are all longer, lankier cornerbacks. Nickels have to be able to swing their hips in both directions, track the receiver both inside and out, and trigger downhill in a hurry.
This could put the Browns in a position where Denzel Ward will have to kick inside in nickel. Another option could be sliding safety Grant Delpit down and throwing Ronnie Harrison on the field.
The best guess as of now? Green played in the nickel in the preseason as the Browns rested starters. More than likely he has been training as a boundary and nickel cornerback for the Browns this season and will slide into that role.
Will Josh Allen get back to his best form?
Browns vs. Bills.
The Bills have not been their best selves over the past three weeks. And specifically, quarterback Josh Allen has had his fair share of difficulties in that span as well, throwing six interceptions. Playing the 26th-best passing defense in DVOA is a good opportunity, however, to get back on track.
This same passing defense, however, caught Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals on Halloween, so they are capable of facing off against top-shelf quarterback play. This matchup may come down to which version of Allen shows up in Detroit. He has been battling an elbow injury and is still not completely healthy.
This will be an interesting storyline to watch.
What changes will the Browns make against the run?
Browns vs. Bills. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
The Browns have the worst run defense in the last decade. They have been putrid in that phase of the game all season long. Luckily for the Browns, however, the Bills are the 21st-most efficient running offense in the league in 2022.
Cleveland went out and added a defensive tackle off of the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad this week in Ben Stille, but other than that what can the Browns do to turn around this unit? The answer very well may be a new defensive coordinator and defensive line coach, and it is trending in that direction, but is there any hope for the last eight games?
Firing Joe Woods will not help this season, although it is hard to see how it could be worse. Overall, however, the Browns are facing a defensive tackle overhaul this offseason. We will see if they change up their plan of attack tomorrow against the Bills, but do not hold your breath given the talent in that room.
Can the Browns get the run game jumpstarted against a great Bills run defense?
Browns vs. Bills. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
The name of the game continues to be the run game and the legs of running back Nick Chubb for the Browns. However, their running game took a hit last week as the Browns averaged just three yards per carry outside of one run that gave Chubb half of his rushing yards on the day. The bad news for the Browns? Bills’ head coach Sean McDermott leads one of the best defensive units in the NFL.
Not only are they a top-five unit against the pass on the season, even with the injury to their top cornerback Tre’Davious White sidelined all season, but they are also the sixth-most efficient team against the run as well. If the Browns have any hope of pulling off an upset, they will need to get their run game kicked back up.
But it will not be easy sledding for Chubb and his offensive line tomorrow.
Who will have homefield advantage?
Browns vs. Bills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland is closer to Detroit than Buffalo is, and Browns fans were passing around the ticket sales code that gave priority to Bills fans. It will be interesting to see what colors dominate the stands. Will the field that usually houses the Lions be covered in red and blue or orange and brown?
The Browns have caught breaks every step of the way, including the opportunity to have a home game away from home. Injuries to starters, canceled practices, and the ability to fill a stadium outside of theirs, can the Browns take advantage and steal a win over the struggling Bills?