This NFL season has been a rough one for both the Bills and the Browns. Whichever team loses this week will face humiliation, along with a severe blow to playoff hopes that are already almost nonexistent. As far as injuries are concerned, the Browns appear to have the upper hand for this week's game in Buffalo. Simply put, the Bills' secondary, not an intimidating force to begin with, is in shambles.
With middle linebacker Paul Posluszny breaking his arm, the Bills were already at a disadvantage as far as presence in the secondary. However, it only got worse. Starting safeties Bryan Scott (ankle) and Donte Whitner (thumb) are both out for this week.
Before his injury, Scott had been developing into a dependable strong safety this season, already picking up 27 tackles and an interception. Over at free safety, Whitner had been solid, recording 23 tackles. Without these two players manning the deep ball or long run, the big-play potential of the Browns should increase, especially with the fact that Whitner's comrade at free safety, Jairus Byrd, is not a lock to play. If Byrd proves not to dress for the game, the Bills will have to either do without a free safety or switch someone over. Possibly John Wendling.
It appears as if the Bills lucked out with this week's trade of Braylon Edwards from the Browns to the Jets. If Edwards had been playing this week, he probably would have had a field day.
Defensive tackle John McCargo is listed as questionable for this week. Whether he plays or not, shouldn't be a big issue. As long as Marcus Stroud and Kyle Williams stay healthy, Buffalo is fine at defensive tackle. Buffalo received a dose of great news on the offensive side of the ball where it appears left tackle Demetrius Bell is ready to return. Considering Trent Edwards had next to no time in the pocket last week, this should bode well for Buffalo's struggling passing game. Bell, despite a rash of penalties, showed signs early in the season. He's athletic on the edge.As for the Browns, the major question mark is Jamal Lewis, listed as questionable. He played the first two games, rushing 25 times for 95 yards, and he has proven over his career to be a respectable running back, to say the least. If he makes it into this week's game after a two-week layoff, he could prove to explode for a big run. The Bills have struggled mightily against the run. Last week against Miami, the Dolphins rolled up 250 yards on the ground. Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson is also currently questionable. Jackson has continued to emerge as a top-flight linebacker this season, with 39 tackles and a forced fumble this seasom. If he can't play, the Bills may find some more room to run. The offense needs to find a rhythm with its two starter-worthy backs, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. However, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has reported coach Eric Mangini as asserting that "all those (injured) guys have a real chance this week," so Jackson and Lewis may very well prove to make it into play. As part of the Bill Belichick tight-lipped coaching tree, Mangini doesn't divulge into details. Long-time Browns kicker Phil Dawson is also questionable. It is very possible that this game between two struggling teams could come down to a field goal. Without Dawson, Cleveland will rely on journeyman Bill Cundiff.
On paper, it appears as if the Browns have the advantage in terms of injuries. As far as the coach is concerned, everyone could very well play. This is nowhere near the case for Buffalo. Having to deal with a depleted defense, most notably at the safety position, the Bills will have to keep the Browns near the line of scrimmage all day if they hope to come out with the much-needed victory.
The two teams are a combined 1-7 this season, with the only win coming from the Bills at the hands of the 0-4 Buccaneers. We probably do not have the upcoming AFC Championship Game on our hands. Things might get ugly. However, this game should at least prove to be competitive, as neither team likely has the talent to run away with it. The good news for fans of both teams is that someone has to come away with the win, right? Wait…not necessarily. If the weather turns Buffalo, who knows if anyone will score. Brace yourself.