As you have heard me whine too many times, the Bills haven't made the playoffs since 1999. From 2000 to 2012 they won 82 games and lost 126, averaging 6.3 wins and 9.7 losses. They've suffered four consecutive seasons with double-digit losses and have seven seasons with 10 or more losses over this time frame. But they have no seasons with double-digit wins and just one season above 0.500.
The Browns might actually be worse. I say might because they made the playoffs in 2002 (with a 9-7 record) and they have a season with double-digit wins (10-6 in 2007). But they only mustered 71 wins to 137 losses from 2000 to 2012, an average of 5.5 wins and 10.5 losses per season. That's atrocious -- they averaged double-digit losses for 13 years! They lost 10 or more games 10 times since 2000! They are currently on a streak of five consecutive seasons with 5 or fewer wins. Inspiring stuff. They were an expansion team in 1999 so they went 2-14. They didn't even exist from 1996 to 1998 so they had 0 wins over that span. And before that they had the best football coach of the past 25 years ... but they fired him and moved the team to Baltimore.
I therefore refer to fans of these teams in the 1999-2012 timeframe as The Weary On Erie.
The Bills and Browns have played 17 times since 1972:
As you can see, six of these games took place in 2004 or later. This is no coincidence; the NFL purposely schedules intra-conference games based on the previous year's standings. So the AFC division winners play each other, the second place teams play each other, the third place teams play each other, and the losers play each other. And as I've already explained, the Bills and Browns have done a lot of losing over the past 10+ years. In fact, they have each other as division losers 5 times in 6 years. The missing season was 2011 -- the 2010 Browns went 5-11 and finished ahead of the 4-12 Bengals.
Unsurprisingly, this series of futility is tied at 3-3 with a bunch of ugly scores. They pick up where they left off on Thursday night when the Bills make the trek out I-90 (aka the New York Thruway, aka the Ohio Purnpike, aka AMVETS Memorial Highway) to Cleveland in another divisional losers face-off. The Bills start rookie QB EJ Manuel and at times he looks like a rookie QB.
His stats aren't great:
But they're 2-2 with a win over the defending Super Bowl champions and a game winning drive against Carolina in the 4th quarter. Sure, he only completed 45% of his passes the last two weeks but he was facing two of the better defensive coaches in the league (Rex Ryan and John Harbaugh) so he deserves to be cut a little slack. So I'm once again cautiously optimistic that Buddy Nix got this pick right.
The Browns are also 2-2, riding Brian Hoyer's hot hand to a two game win streak. Although he isn't a rookie like Manuel, Hoyer has a few newbie-looking GIFs floating around on the internet too:
But I suspect that Browns fans, just like Bills fans, have hope that they've found their new franchise QB. Hence the title of this post, in honor of the 6th (VIth?) matchup between these teams in the past 7 years.
These teams have more in common than 2-2 records and questionmarks at QB. The Bills have a -5 point differential while the Browns are -6, with average margins of victory of -1.3 and -1.5 points respectively. Although the Bills have played much closer games (all decided by 7 points or less), it's safe to say that neither team relies on one particular side of the ball to carry them.
The Browns complete 56.8% of their passes, the Bills 56.9%. Accuracy ain't their thang. But uptempo offense is: both teams rank in the top 5 for plays run so far this year (Buffalo 288, Cleveland 280). Unfortunately, both teams rank in the bottom 8 for yards per play, so maybe they should focus on quality instead of quantity. And they're tied with 7 turnovers on offense, right around the league average of 6.9 (clicks).
There's more difference on defense. The Browns have allowed the 4th fewest yards while the Bills have given up the 5th most. The Browns have the stingiest yards-per-carry defense in the league (only 2.9!!) while the Bills are the 9th most generous (4.2 ypc but I'll take anything under 4.5 at this point). Similarly, the Browns allowed a league-leading 2 passing TD so far while the Bills gave up 8 (tied for 10th). The Browns also lead the lead in yards allowed per pass attempt (5.9) while the Bills are right around the league average (7.1). The Browns also lead the league in yards per completion (9.8) whle the Bills rank 29th (13.1). The Bills lead the league with 9 INT, and the Browns have but 3 picks. But they both rank in the top 8 in terms of opposing passer rating (70.0 for Buffalo, 73.5 for Cleveland).
Remarkably, both teams rank in the top 5 in defensive plays run (298 for the Bills, 279 for the Browns) so I guess we should expect to see a lot of action with little downtime on Thursday.
I don't believe in the Bills' running game even though they've racked up the 2nd most rushing yards per game, and I expect the Browns' defense to shut down Spiller and Jackson. Although I'm not sold on Brian Hoyer, I don't have a ton of faith in Buffalo's passing defense either. I can also see recently acquired Browns RB Willis McGahee running roughshod over his former team just to remind everyone that the Bills are bad at retaining talent. Like this guy who they got to replace McGahee, and who replaced with CJ Spiller:
Yeah, I'd trade this guy for a 4th round pick. Good value.
The Bills have players named EJ, CJ, and TJ, aka the Eedge, the Ceedge, and the Teedge. That's too many -dges for my taste, and the team with the most Teedges usually loses. So I'm picking Cleveland to win 16-13.