Cleveland Browns tied for first place in AFC Central

Oct 3, 2013 10:15 AM

There’s nothing like the electric atmosphere when a prime-time game is played at the home of a traditionally crummy team that’s recently been experiencing a dose of success. Especially in Cleveland.

That’s going to be the case Thursday night when the Browns, on a two-game winning streak and suddenly tied for first in the AFC Central, face Buffalo. It’s the first midweek night game for Cleveland in four seasons. That means fans will have a lot of pent-up energy.

It’s just too bad the baseball Indians couldn’t have won their wild-card game Wednesday night or the joint would be jumpin like all get-out.

In 2009, when the Browns last played under the home prime-time lights, they beat Pittsburgh 13-6 on a Thursday despite being a 10-point underdog. A year earlier, coming off a four-year stretch of not hosting a MNF game, they defeated the defending champion Giants at home as an 8-point underdog, 35-14.

Now for a closer look at Thursday night’s game:

THURSDAY - PRO FOOTBALL, OCT. 3

Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns

Time: 5:25 p.m. PST

Line: Browns by 3½ (40½)

Facts: The Browns are 3-8 ATS the past four seasons as a home choice… Buffalo’s two-man backfield is hobbled, with Fred Jackson (probable, knee) and C.J. Spiller (ankle, questionable). That could mean a bigger role for third-teamer Tashard Choice…Cleveland’s defense, rated third in the league, is allowing a league-low 2.9 yards a rush and only 5.9 per pass, which is second stingiest… In Week 15 of 2007, these teams met in Cleveland with the Browns winning 8-0 in a blizzard. There’s been no game as low-scoring since… Cleveland had a league-high-tying five drives of 10-plus plays last week in beating AFC North front-runner Cincinnati, 17-6. But the Browns are one of two teams (Rams) that haven’t had a rushing score.

Analysis: Buffalo pulled off a stunning victory over the defending champion Ravens last week, rushing for a league season-high 55 times. But Bills rookie QB EJ Manuel likely will be forced to the air many more times this week than last when he was a weak 10-for-22 for 147 yards and two INTs. Somewhat miraculously, the Browns have flourished without traded RB Trent Richardson and bonded behind backup QB Brian Hoyer to beat Minnesota on the road and then Cincinnati. It seems the Browns are a more solid 2-2 than this Bills team, which couldn’t beat the Jets two weeks ago even when New York committed 20 penalties.

Forecast: Browns 26, Bills 13

“Popular” Bob Christ has been forecasting NFL games for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in newspapers from coast to coast in Canada and the U.S. Contact him at [email protected].

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