The Browns Hang On In Atlanta To Stay In Playoff Race; On To Buffalo With The NCP

How Could The Browns Look So Bad And Good In Last Week’s Win?

K-Dubs, the Soldier:  The Browns held on for a big 26-24 win at Atlanta last week, with a last second field goal that snatched victory from the jaws of a defeat.  Brian Hoyer showed much mettle again in leading the game-winning drive.  Unfortunately, the quarterback was a primary reason that such heroics were needed.  His three interceptions were awful, ill-advised throws that kept the Falcons in a game that would not have been close otherwise.  The Browns got their running game back on track last week, gaining 162 yards on 29 carries (5.6 yd/avg).  But I think offensive coordinator Kyle Shannahan got too cute with the game plan, calling in pass plays at puzzling times, and Hoyer just did not execute.  Most strikingly, the Browns drove 74 yards on 7 plays in the fourth quarter setting up a first-and-goal at Atlanta’s 6 yard line.  By this point of the game, the Browns offensive line had worn down the Falcons front seven, and had ripped off runs of 20 and 18 yards on this drive.  On first down, with the goal line right under their noses, the Browns run a bootleg right and Hoyer, under pressure, noodle-armed a ball to the back of the end zone that was picked off, giving the Falcons another chance to win.  Earlier in the half, they rammed the ball down to Atlanta’s 5 yard line, before throwing an incomplete pass on second down out of the shotgun, taking a 9-yard sack on third down, and ultimately settling for a field goal.  Discounting Hoyer’s bad performance and the questionable play-calling, the Browns played a pretty good all-around game.  Again, the offensive line played well, and Josh Gordon looked good in his return, with 120 yards on 8 catches.  The defense bottled up the Falcons running game, holding them to just 63 yards, and made Pro-Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan look fairly pedestrian.  There is a lot of bad to pull out of this game, but I think the never-say-die attitude the team showed again is going to help in what appears like it’s going to be a difficult push for the playoffs.


Big$: Well the Browns are 7-4, but there is definitely good news and bad news surrounding last week's last second victory.  I'll stay in my comfort zone and open with the bad news. As much as I want to stick up for the hometown boy, Brian Hoyer's play against the Falcons was wretched.  He had been walking a tightrope all year as it relates to INTs and that rope snapped like many a thanksgiving belt in Atlanta.  To miss as bad as he was missing showed a startling lack of focus which could be deadly in a playoff hunt (ask Derek Anderson).  This week will tell us a lot about Brian Hoyer and where he’s headed. Coupled with the concerns at QB, is the fact that it seems as though the rest of the AFC North is hitting its stride.  Rumors of the Bengals, Ravens, and Steelers demise have been greatly exaggerated.  The Browns are in a dogfight and they have infinitely less experience in this area than their other playoff tested counterparts.  I have my doubts that they can keep their heads up above water.


Now the good news, the NFL is a war of attrition.  There are no style points, and a win is a win.  This team has proven that it can win ugly when the moment calls for it and that character should serve them well during the late season push.  As far as this week’s match up goes, I also believe the Browns will gain some sort of competitive advantage from Pettine and O Neil’s history with the Bills and hope to see it capitalized on.


Where would you start LeBron this week?


Big $:  With all the defensive injuries it would be dumb not to utilize LeBron on that side of the ball.  So on Sunday I’m sending Barkevious Mingo to the buffet for weight enhancement and letting the King run wild at outside linebacker.

K-Dubs, the Soldier:  I would like to see LeBron patrol the sidelines as an assistant coach.  Last week in Atlanta, Coach Pettine again showed poor clock/timeout management.  He also pulled the ultimate head-scratcher on the last play of the first half by choosing to try a 60-yard field goal with Billy Cundiff, who is statistically the NFL’s worst long-range kicker ever.  Almost any other offensive play would have a better chance of netting some points, especially when you have deep threat Josh Gordon back on the field. 


What do you expect this week on the road against the 6-5 Buffalo Bills?


Big $:  In retrospect, the Browns could of won the Falcons game by 3 touchdowns had it not been for Shanahan and Hoyer’s dual lobotomies.  I am going to hope and assume things were learned and corrections were made.  However, I'm also concerned that Sammy Watkins may throw a shaker of salt on our current 2014 draft woes.  With that said, I’m going to go out on a mile-long limb and not only predict a 21-17 Browns victory, but also that Justin Gilbert will atone for our Watkins envy with a big play this week.


K-Dubs, the Soldier:  The Bills are the type of team that has given the Browns trouble all year, as they have a great defensive line.  Buffalo averages more than 4 sacks per game, led by end Mario Williams and tackle Marcell Dareus, who have 12 and 10 sacks, respectively.  Teams that can penetrate the Browns front line, especially at the interior, have stifled the run and forced the ever-inconsistent Hoyer into poor throws.  The Bills have thrived in such situations this year, ranking 4th in the league in scoring defense and 6th with a plus-8 turnover margin.  The Browns offensive line, though, showed some dominance last week against the Falcons.  The outcome of this matchup will determine the game.  On the other side of the ball, the Browns are missing LB Karlos Dansby and safety Tashaun Gipson are injury, but I still think they can match up well against a Bills offense that ranks in the bottom third of the league in just about all relevant categories.  I think the Browns can keep the Bills offense at bay but, ultimately, I don’t think they can outscore them this week.  I am expecting a low-scoring game, with that Bills front seven leading the charge and taking a 16-13 win.  

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