Two of the more surprising 2-2 teams in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills have been relatively successful due to the play of their quarterbacks – one a rookie who doesn’t make too many mistakes and the other a career backup who lucked out into becoming the starter.
Brian Hoyer, a Lakewood, Ohio native, is suddenly all the talk on a team that looked like it’s giving up on the season by trading away Trent Richardson. Suddenly, come two wins over the Bengals and the Vikings, with Hoyer completing 59.8% of his passes, throwing five touchdowns and three interceptions.
The main difference between him and Weeden? Hoyer is getting things done in the redzone. In two starts, Hoyer has thrown 4 touchdowns and has a Total QBR of 96 inside the 20. Weeden’s Red Zone QBR is 18. There’s also the matter of Hoyer being a quicker decision maker. He has held onto the ball for an average of 2.8 seconds from snap to pass, sack or scramble, the shortest time in the NFL this season and 1.5 seconds quicker than Brandon Weeden’s league-worst time.
Saying that Manuel doesn’t make mistakes is wrong. He threw two interceptions in the 23-20 win over the Ravens and already has three this season. However, considering he is a rookie who was designated to start on the bench, he’s doing quite well, with a 80.2 passer rating and throwing for a touchdown in each of his four starts so far. The problem for him has been facing good defenses – Jets and Ravens, and the Browns are allowing only 292 yards per game.
The running game is key for the Bills, averaging 152 yards on the ground. C.J. Spiller has run for 230 yards so far this season, and Fred Jackson has done even better with 256 yards and a couple of touchdowns, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Spiller, however, hasn’t been as efficient.
He has averaged 1.2 yards per rush after contact this season, tied for the second worst rate in the NFL. Last season Spiller averaged 2.1 yards per rush after contact, fifth best in the NFL. The Bills are running against a strong run defense, very different from theirs, as the Bills allow 122 rushing yards per game.
Prediction – Hoyer isn’t some footballing messiah arriving in Cleveland, but he’s probably a better quarterback than Weeden. Facing a good pass defense but bad on the ground will be difficult for the Browns, but if they can keep Hoyer quick on his release, they should be able to get enough stops against Manuel to win for a third time straight, and the first against the Bills since 2009.