The Game Matchups Preview series is dedicated to breaking down how the Buffalo Bills match up with their opponent in each game of the 2022 NFL Season. This series will look at five key matchups; Bills Pass Offense vs. Opponent Pass Defense, Bills Rush Offense vs. Opponent Rush Defense, Bills Pass Defense vs. Opponent Pass Offense, Bills Rush Defense vs. Opponent Rush Offense, and Bills Special Teams vs. Opponent Special Teams. This entire analysis will conclude with three sections; “Why Buffalo Will Lose”, “Why Buffalo Will Win”, and a score prediction for the game.
Below I present 2022’s 10th iteration of this analysis for the Bills’ Week 11 clash versus the Cleveland Browns. Included is a scale ranking the advantage in each matchup from 👏 (Minimal Advantage) to 👏👏👏👏👏 (Massive Advantage).
Bills Pass Offense vs. Browns Pass Defense
In his last 11 quarters of play, Bills quarterback Josh Allen has accounted for 7 turnovers. This unacceptable development has resulted in Buffalo going 1-2 over that stretch while being outscored 63-50. This has pushed Allen’s Turnover Frequency to 3.04% and out of the Top-5 in QuBeR rankings. Concern is growing but there is no need to sound the alarm as of yet for Allen.
Allen’s ability to consistently move the ball downfield and into the endzone remains elite while cleaning up turnovers would only provide a boon to these numbers. With the Bills set to play the #26 and #24 Pass Defenses by DVOA over the next two games look for Allen and the Buffalo offense to clean up the mistakes, beginning this week against their opponent, the Cleveland Browns.
Coming into this season, the Browns defense was touted as one of the league’s most complete, yet with a top-tier coverage unit, they haven’t lived up to expectations. Through 9 weeks the fivesome of John Johnson (S), Grant Delpit (S), Martin Emerson (CB), Denzel Ward (CB), and Greg Newsome (CB) are giving up a Passer Rating against of 92.2 consisting of a staggering 9:2 TD:INT ratio. Inconsistent play throughout has been the primary cause of this with players like Johnson and Ward excelling while Delpit and Newsome struggle.
Newsome has been the most glaring point of weakness for the Browns, as he’s transitioned into the slot role while Emerson mans the outside. The transition has gone poorly for the 2021 All-Rookie who is giving up a completion percentage of 68.3% in the new role. Buffalo will continue to take their shots downfield to players like Gabe Davis and Dawson Knox, but with the recent turnover struggles and this particular vulnerability for the Browns, look for Buffalo to try and get Diggs close to Newsome’s area of coverage in an effort to attack the short and intermediate.
The Browns will have to produce pressure this week if they intend to slow down Allen and the Bills’ air attack. Fortunately for Buffalo, the Browns don’t exactly excel at that. Outside of All-World talent Myles Garrett (DE), who has the ability to single-handedly wreck this game, no one else on the Browns has more than 2.0 Sacks. In fact, the Browns currently rank 22nd in Pressure Rate (20.5%) and 18th in Sacks (20).
This means that the Bills recently struggling Offensive Line should be able to double Garrett while relying on 1-on-1 matchups, or Allen’s legs, to prevent the likes of Taven Bryan (DT) or Jadeveon Clowney (DE) from causing issues in the backfield. The recipe for success for the Bills is to prevent pressure, avoid turnovers, and complete the easy throws, and the Browns seemingly provide all the ingredients to get Josh Allen back to cooking.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏👏
Bills Rush Offense vs. Browns Rush Defense
A lot has been made about Devin Singletary’s fumble(?) against the Vikings and his supposed “issues” with ball security. He now has 2 fumbles on the season which is tied with 25 other players for 38th most in the NFL. Frustrating yes, damning no. Still, historically Sean McDermott has not put up with any form of ball security issues from his running backs so is it out of the question that Nyheim Hines and James Cook could see more touches moving forward? No.
The Bills are desperately seeking some form of consistency on the ground and with the full understanding that the Offensive Line is playing below expectations in the run game, speed could be an impotence for change. Singletary still projects as RB1 for Buffalo but it should surprise no one if the speedy Hines and Cook get more touches beginning as early as Sunday.
On paper, this week presents itself as an opportunity for Buffalo to move the ball on the ground against a Browns team that is giving up 4.8 Y/A (NFL-7). In reality, a lot of that number comes from rectifiable issues at linebacker. Coming into Sunday’s game Sione Takitaki is the Browns’ highest snap share LB at just 60.64%. The 4th year special teams player was forced into OLB action due to an injury to Cleveland’s top Linebacker, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah who is expected back against the Bills.
Injuries also affected the MLB role where starter Anthony Walker suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3 and backup Jacob Phillips suffered a season-ending injury in Week #7. This forced the Browns to make a move and trade with the Falcons for Deion Jones, who is finally ramped up and now starting for the Browns. All of this means that a Browns Rush Defense which has generally struggled because of its linebackers will have arguably their best pairing of the season in Jones and Owusu-Koramoah against the Bills on Sunday.
With the Browns set to trot out maybe their best version of run defense and the Bills’ traditional run game struggling, expect Josh Allen to use his legs more and more. Allen is coming off back-to-back 80-plus yard rushing games and is currently 3rd in the NFL with a 7.0 Y/A. With Allen’s elbow injury not yet fully healed, expect him to take off more on the ground this week either by way of scramble or designed QB runs. In particular, look for this in the red zone, where Buffalo’s challenges are well-documented and Allen’s ability to cross the goal line with his legs could be an important development Sunday – and for the remainder of the season.
The Browns counter to all of this though is a good one in the form of Owusu-Koramoah. One of the most athletic linebackers in the league will challenge arguably the most athletic Quarterback in the league in a matchup that very well could decide this game.
EDGE: Browns 👏👏
Bills Pass Defense vs. Browns Pass Offense
Imagine losing an All-Pro DB. Now imagine losing a second All-Pro DB. Now imagine losing a third All-Pro DB. Now imagine losing a DB you spent a first-round pick on this season. Now imagine that team is still a Top-5 Pass Defense. That’s the Buffalo Bills.
The losses of Tre White (CB), Micah Hyde (S), Jordan Poyer (S), and Kaiir Elam (CB) have played pivotal roles in the outcome of some games this season. Still, Buffalo’s continued play as one of the better Pass Defenses in the NFL is a testament to scheme and coaching. Players like Dane Jackson (CB), Damar Hamlin (S), and Christian Benford (CB) have all been potent in their time on the field and look poised to be key players for the Buffalo Bills moving forward. They do that knowing that in due time not one but possibly two of those aforementioned All-Pro DBs may be returning to the field for Buffalo.
Against the Browns the Bills will see an offense reminiscent of the 2017 Bills, led by quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Playing the role of Game Manager, Brissett isn’t expected to win games, but instead, not lose them – something he has not excelled at. In games where Brissett has 1+ Touchdowns and 0 Interceptions the Browns are 3-1, in all other games, they are 0-5.
He’s done this throwing to a middling receiving corps highlighted by Amari Cooper (WR1), Donovan-Peoples Jones (WR2), David Njoku (TE1), and Kareem Hunt (RB2). Cooper is obviously the headliner of this group and is averaging 7.6 Targets, 4.6 Receptions, and 65 Yards per game. Buffalo will likely pay special attention to Cooper while simultaneously sitting in a more compressed version of their zone and keeping their eyes on RBs coming out of the backfield.
Where Buffalo will look to take over this game is by pressuring Brissett. As of Thursday’s injury report, 3 out of the 5 Browns starters on the offensive line have been given an injury designation. This plays into the Bills’ hand as they rely on the versatility of their Defensive Linemen as well as re-positioning to create problematic matchups for opposing offenses. Obviously led by Von Miller, who has been a dominant force this season, Buffalo is still getting high levels of production from Greg Rousseau (When healthy) and their stable of Defensive Tackles.
The Bills are going to need to compete up front regardless, in an effort to slow down the run, but if they can do that while generating pressure on Brissett it will only further their cause. Brissett is being sacked about 2 times per game this season, if the Bills can produce 4 the Browns will struggle to move the ball offensively.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏👏👏
Bills Rush Defense vs. Browns Rush Offense
The Buffalo Bills are a Rorschach Test for Rush Defense. They currently rank 18th in Y/A against and in 5 of their first 6 games held opponents under 85 rushing yards. Meanwhile, in their last 3 games, teams are averaging 176.3 rushing yards per game against this. Most recently the Vikings came to Buffalo and dropped 147 yards on the Bills while averaging 5.9 Y/A. Of course, that number is a bit skewed due to Dalvin Cook’s 81-yard scamper, with all other carries accounting for a Y/A of just 2.75. What does this all mean? Are the Bills a good run defense? A bad one? The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.
Against the Browns, though, it may not matter how good, or bad, the Bills are at stopping the run because arguably the NFL’s best RB is coming to town. Nick Chubb is currently 4th in carries (160), 3rd in yards (904), 1st in touchdowns (11), and 5th in Y/A (5.7) among RBs. If the season were to end today Chubb would be your First Team All-Pro RB as he does anything and everything to carry this Browns team through the season.
Chubb is one of those unique breeds of running back that has the ability to excel at any facet of the position. He has the quickness and lateral abilities to juke defenders and generate big gains, while simultaneously possessing the lower body power to run directly through even the largest of Defensive Tackles. The Bills held Derrick Henry in check earlier this year, it’s going to be more difficult to do so with Chubb.
This moves all eyes to the health of Tremaine Edmunds. Somehow still a polarizing player for the Bills, the drop off at LB from Edmunds to any of Buffalo’s backups is a massive one. Against Cleveland, his presence in the middle of the field alone should help Buffalo in corralling Chubb and lowering the Browns’ ability to continuously pick up first downs. If Edmunds cannot go on Sunday the focus moves forward to the Bills’ Defensive Line where the likes of DaQuan Jones, Ed Oliver, and Jordan Phillips may have to play their best games of the season to keep Chubb from topping 150 yards. The Bills are going to try and game-flow the Browns out of the run this week by scoring fast and early. If they can’t do so, the Browns path to victory gets wider and wider through this matchup.
EDGE: Browns 👏👏👏
Good luck trying to bring down Nick Chubb 😤
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) November 13, 2022
Bills Special Teams vs. Browns Special Teams
Tyler Bass has extended his XP streak to 100, now just 12 shy of the post-2015 NFL record. He’s 15/18 on Field Goals, 2 of which were blocked, and there is an argument that outside of Justin Tucker, Tyler Bass is the most automatic Kicker in the NFL. Punter Sam Martin still has not Punted more than 3 times in a game – assuring that he is not qualified for Punting Leaderboards. He still is averaging a 48.1 gross average and 43.1 net average as a consistent force for the Bills when called upon. The return game is still a little uncertain for the Bills, while Nyheim Hines is off and running on PR the Bills are working through who should be their KR. Duke Johnson filled in nicely as a call-up against the Vikings and it will be interesting to see if the Bills are willing to jump into those waters again.
The Browns are in a bit more troubled waters with their Kicker, Cade York, who has missed 2 XPs this season and 4 FGs. 3 of those FG misses were at 50+ so he is still fairly consistent. Punting for the Browns is old pal, Corey Bojorquez who continues to show off his booming leg averaging 47.0 Y/P but his net average of 38.6 leaves a lot to be desired. Returns are also up in the air for the Browns as they have seen 3 different players return punts this season and 5 return kicks. Most recently rookie Jerome Ford handled Kicks while Donovan Peoples-Jones handled Punts. Each possesses sub 4.50 speed making them unproven in said roles but dangerous nonetheless.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏👏
Why Buffalo Will Lose
Turns out the weather will have no impact on this game with the Bills and Browns headed to Detroit. This saves Buffalo a tad from another advantage going to star RB, Nick Chubb, but nonetheless, he will be difficult to bring down. Even when the ground is dry, Chubb’s ability to dictate direction puts defenders on skates, and if the ground is wet they may just slide off the field. Chubb is the key to this entire game with a shot here and there to Cooper or People-Jones. The Browns can put up points, and will, as long as game flow works in their favor.
On defense, both Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward are Gamewreckers. Every time you face players like that, you must be privy to the fact that they single-handedly can take over the game. If Garrett plays at the level he is capable of it should keep Allen off balance all day. As we all know, an off-balance Allen, can get ugly.
Meanwhile in the secondary with Ward roaming, it may be harder for the Bills to pick up yardage through the air. If Buffalo can’t find success through the air, what’s projected as an easy win for the Bills could quickly turn into yet another disaster in the month of November.
Why Buffalo Will Win
Like every week, regardless of injuries, the Bills have the better roster. It starts with Josh Allen, who has struggled the past 2.5 games but is still one of the best Quarterbacks in the league. Not if, but when, Allen cleans up the turnovers, this offense goes right back toward the top of the league in terms of dominance. If that begins this week, the Bills may just trounce a struggling Browns defense through a combination of big plays through the air down the field and a simulated run game through short yardage throws. There are points to be had here, as long as Buffalo doesn’t give them away.
On defense, the Bills are going to need to find a way to stop the run and if that means stacking the box so be it. The Bills have the horses to keep Chubb in the stable and if they get some reinforcements through the likes of Tremaine Edmunds and/or Greg Rousseau in the front seven, life will be much easier.
Buffalo will need to be aware of the pass though, and if the Browns need to push the ball through the air, they do have weapons capable of creating a few plays here in there. The good news for Buffalo is that Jordan Poyer may be just healthy enough to play. As for Tre White, his return gets closer and closer until it’s so close he’s on the field. This week? Maybe.
Prediction: Bills 38 – Browns 17
Weather won’t play a role in the game, but anger will. Josh Allen is more than aware of the criticism being levied on him as of late and while there is some fear he starts to press more we have seen angry Josh before, and he’s dangerous. I project a huge game from Allen en route to a rout of a hapless Browns team. Chubb will get his, as the game goes on but unlike last week, even if the Bills put the Browns away early, the foot is going to stay on the pedal.