If you had told some NFL bettors that the Buffalo Bills or Cleveland Browns might be over .500 after five weeks of the regular season, you may have gotten a strange look. But that’s exactly what is going to happen to one of these teams, both of whom are 2-2, when they meet up on Thursday night, with kickoff slated for 8:30 PM ET at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
Each of these teams have employed a quarterback who was making his first start with the team, and for the Browns, it may be just what the doctor ordered after they traded running back Trent Richardson.
Cleveland Browns -4
Buffalo Bills +4
Here is the NFL total as it appears on this game:
Over 40.5 Points -110
Under 40.5 Points -110
From a team that most people had given up for dead only a couple of weeks into the season, the Browns have suddenly given themselves some hope, as they have replaced Brandon Weeden at quarterback with Brian Hoyer, who has kicked around the NFL for a few years before making any appreciable impact until now.
When the Browns (the -200 favorite in NFL odds to win the game straight-up) traded Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts, they were accused of taking a dive, so to speak, on their season, because Richardson, who had just been drafted in the first round the year before, was likely the best offensive player they had. They did get a first-round draft choice for him, and the speculation was that they were going to use that choice to find a “quarterback of the future,” or at least include it as part of a deal to get a quarterback.
In the meantime, with Weeden out of action with an injury, the Browns’ coaching staff skipped over backup Jason Campbell and offered a starting spot to Hoyer, who had only limited experience in running and NFL offense. They told him that if he played well, he had a chance to be the starter for the rest of the year.
Hoyer responded with some of the gunslinging that head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner were looking for in their “vertical offense.” Against the Minnesota Vikings he threw for 321 yards, heaving it up 54 times. Hoyer had three interceptions, but also tossed three TD passes, including the game-winner in the final minute. Against the rough Cincinnati Bengals defense last week, Hoyer had 269 yards and a pair of scores, and engineered nine conversions in 18 third down attempts.
With a bit of a contribution from the running game, Cleveland evened up its record. Now they are tied with Cincinnati and Baltimore for first place in the AFC North, and in the football futures odds at GTBets they are priced at +600 to win the division. And of course, the Browns have graciously permitted Hoyer to remain their starting quarterback for at least another week.
Hoyer hasn’t had a lot of experience, but for Manuel, as a raw rookie, the quick turnaround from a Sunday game to one on Thursday has to be one of great adjustments. He insists that his team will be ready. “We’re fresh not just mentally but physically,” he says.
Buffalo (the +170 money line underdog at GTBets) has had its moments, and some of them came this past Sunday when the Bulls scored a 23-20 upset of the Baltimore Ravens. Manuel did not have a good game, going 10 for 22 with two interceptions, but the running game produced (203 yards) and the defense intercepted Joe Flacco five times. If the Bills were out to play ball control, they most definitely succeeded, as they held it for 36 minutes and 26 seconds.
While the Bills know that they are going to put all their chips behind Manuel, and seem willing to accept the growing pains that will invariably come along with it. The Browns are trying to find out if they have a quarterback they can move ahead with, although they are probably prepared for the possibility that Hoyer will show himself to be nothing more than a backup. However, pro football bettors are only concerned about what is going to happen on Thursday, and perhaps the Browns’ defensive, which forces mistakes on the part of the opposition, makes the difference on their home field.
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