Wednesday, September 19, 2012

NFL Predictions 2012 Week 3: Bills vs Browns

Buffalo Bills vs Cleveland Browns: BUF -2.5 (5Dimes)

Markets

Before Week 2, the Bills were favored by three over the Browns.  After the weekend, it opened at the same number.  The surprising thing is we've seen a move off a key number mid-week.  This is enough for me to add it to the card.  If you don't have -2.5, the half point is now affordable in the drop-down menu. If that's not an option, you need a new sportsbook.

The line move could be a clear sign that sharp money isn't sold on the Bills yet.  Is one hyped-up home opener win enough to justify them as field goal favorites on the road?  I'd say no, but there are other reasons to support the pick.

Two Teams Searching for an Identity

In Week 1, Brandon Weeden looked like he belongs in the Arena League, while Trent Richardson seemed rusty coming off a knee operation. The following week, both looked like pro-bowlers.

The same can be said about the Bills.  They got scraped off the mat in New York, only to turn around and paste the Chiefs into the cement.

Week 3 should tell us a lot more about the direction of both teams going forward.

Pressure, Pressure, Pressure

When it comes to evaluating Weeden, the truth probably lies somewhere inbetween the first two games.  Line him up against a suspect secondary and give him time to throw, he's going to make some completions.  Pit him against a relentless D-line and an aggressive secondary and he'll fall back to earth.

The Bills defense resembles more of the latter.

I said last week that the play of their D-line is going to determine a lot on the scoreboard this year, and they stepped up huge and harassed Matt Cassel for most of the day.  They were particularly impressive on third and long.

The Browns have a couple nice pieces on their O-line in Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, but both guards are shaky and they put a lot on the shoulders of second-round pick Mitchell Schwartz.

I expect some rookie mistakes from Weeden on Sunday because Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams is a much bigger challenge than what the Bengals secondary offered.  The Browns would be wise to have a run-first approach and hope Richardson can have another great performance.

C.J. Spiller + Ryan Fitzpatrick = What?

I had questions about whether or not Spiller could maintain his Week 1 performance and hold up enough in pass protection, but he answered the bell with flying colors.  Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn't asked to do a lot, which is ideal considering how maddening inconsistent he can be.

I don't expect the same dominating performance as Week 2 because this isn't an amped up home-opener, but the Browns defense isn't going to strike fear in anybody without Joe Haden and Phil Taylor.

Yes, they've gotten some sacks from unlikely places, D'Qwell Jackson is flying all over the field, and they've been quasi-competitive in back to back games, but banking on that to happen week in and week out is asking a lot.

Andy Dalton made it look quite easy in the air and the final score was much closer than what took place on the field.

Fool's Gold?

The primary reason I'm not buying into the Browns is their play in key situations.  When a drive has been on the line, or they are in the red zone on either side of the ball, they have failed more times than not.

Until they begin to improve on 3rd down and in the red zone, I'll continue to fade the Browns if the point spread is right.

Bottom Line

The Browns are outmatched on both sides of the ball, which means winning by three shouldn't be too much to ask from the Bills.  This is a big test for Buffalo and we'll find out a lot about their character and ability to win games they should win.  If they come up short in this spot, it could be a long, painful season the rest of the way.

NFL Pick: BUF -2.5.

The rest of my Week 3 predictions are here, or you can find all my 2012 predictions on the home page main menu.