Bills at Browns -- Week 3
Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium (grass, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m., ET (CBS)
Spread: Bills by 3
Forecast: Mid-50s, early sprinkles, scattered clouds
Records: Bills (Overall: 1-1, AFC East: 0-1); Browns (Overall: 0-2, AFC North: 0-1)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Dec. 12, 2010: Bills 13, Browns 6; Oct. 11, 2009: Browns 6, Bills 3. Series record: Bills hold a 10-6 game edge.
What matters: Can these two teams finally put together an interesting game of football? Their last two contests have been particularly dreadful. Their 2009 meeting -- a 6-3 clunker -- remains one of the lowest scoring games of the past decade in Buffalo. Luckily, both teams appear to have capable offenses this time around. Browns rookies Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson showed great improvement in Week 2, while the Bills put up 35 points against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Who matters: Richardson, C.J. Spiller and Buffalo’s defensive line. This game features two of the top young running backs in the game in Richardson and Spiller. Both teams are expected to use their feature backs extensively and hope to limit mistakes from their QBs. The Bills have been near the bottom of the league in run defense in recent years but have gotten off to a good start in 2012. If they can keep Richardson in check, they can then focus on getting after Weeden -- who is making only the third start of his career. The Bills also hope the Ryan Fitzpatrick of Week 2 -- and not Week 1 -- shows up against the Browns. Fitzpatrick rebounded against the Chiefs (10 of 19, 178 yards, two TDs, no INTs) after a dreadful effort in Week 1 (18 of 32, 195 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs).
Key matchups: Both running backs may dominate the headlines, but how will Buffalo’s WRs fare against Cleveland’s secondary? The Browns are without top CB Joe Haden, who is serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on banned substances. Haden is easily the team’s best shutdown CB, which could mean more running room for Buffalo’s top receiver, Steve Johnson. Johnson has been quiet to start the year but did have a 49-yard score against the Chiefs. Cleveland has had some issues at CB with Haden out. Sheldon Brown was benched for Buster Skrine in Week 2, who struggled badly against the Bengals.
Injuries of note: FS Jairus Byrd is expected to play after missing Wednesday’s practice with an ankle injury. On Thursday, coach Gailey said he was “shocked” by Byrd’s quick progress. RB Fred Jackson (knee) is out, but is ahead of schedule. WR Ruvell Martin (ankle) is out.
Inside stuff: Buffalo’s offensive line shined in Week 2, establishing a physical tone early against the Chiefs. Now in their fourth year in the league, C Eric Wood and LG Andy Levitre have developed into two top-notch interior linemen. LT Cordy Glenn has progressed faster than expected, as well. It will be important for the Bills to set a tone early once again against the Browns.
Connections: Former Bills coach Dick Jauron is in his second year as Cleveland’s defensive coordinator. Rookie Tank Carder, a fifth-round pick of the Bills who was released during final cuts, is a member of the Browns.
Stat you should know: RB C.J. Spiller is averaging 10.07 yards per carry -- the highest by a RB after two games since Jim Brown’s 11.3 average in 1963.
Record watch: With a touchdown, Spiller could become the first Bill since Thurman Thomas (1990) to have a six-game touchdown streak.
Looking ahead: After a bounce-back effort against the Chiefs in Week 2, the Bills would really benefit from some momentum heading into a difficult stretch following the Browns game. The Bills have two of their toughest games of the schedule -- New England at home and San Francisco on the road -- in Weeks 4 and 5.
Prediction: Bills 17, Browns 10
For more updates on the Bills, follow correspondent Mark Ludwiczak on Twitter @CBSBillsand @MarkLud12.