NFL Picks: Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland Browns

Pre-season week 2 NFL Picks– Thursday games

Buffalo @ Cleveland -3

The Bills are depleted on offence, and will be without WR’s Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin and Robert Woods. Their rushing attack will also be missing LeSean McCoy, Fred Jackson, Boobie Dixon and Bryce Brown, meaning Ricky Seale and Bronson Hill will share ball carrying duties. Neither of these players were on the Bills roster two weeks ago, and Ricky Seale had just 53 carries in a four year college career. These are both unknown quantities, so look out for them this evening. The Bills also picked up Cierre Wood on Wednesday to boost the competition at the running back position.

QB Tyrod Taylor is set to start vs Cleveland, and the lack of weapons could hamper his efforts in the race for the starting job. His competition for the spot, Matt Cassel, had the main players to target last week, and was hugely helped out in the running game. Coach Rex Ryan wasn’t interested though, and said “Next man has got to step up and then the next man, the next man, and the next man. But that’s what happens and sometimes you’ve got to play in those kind of situations”.

Taylor will have the first-string offensive line to play behind though, and starting TE Charles Clay is also healthy.

The Bills defence looked good in the narrow defeat to Carolina, and gave up just 73 yards on the ground. The pass rush pressured Cam Newton, but only managed one sack as a defensive unit. The linebacker position took a hit this week when backup Ty Powell suffered a season ending ACL tear.

This has given an opportunity for one of the young guys to step up and make the roster.

After the loss of Kiko Alonso, the Bills are thin on experience at the LB position, behind starters Preston Brown and Nigel Bradham, there is 6th round draft pick Tony Steward and undrafted free agent A.J Tarpley.

Both players will work with the second string tonight, and who ever performs best will have the inside track on a roster spot, and possibly a starting role in 2015.

Cleveland lost to Washington in their first pre-season game, and will want to see more from an underperforming offensive unit vs Buffalo.

Johnny Manziel led the rushing attack, with just 14 yards, so I expect bigger roles for both Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell tonight.

Josh McCown still leads the QB1 race, and he will look to build some momentum tonight after leading the offence to a touchdown in his only series last week. Manziel proved effective on the ground, rushing for a touchdown, but had an average night overall. Thad Lewis looks to have secured the third string job, as his competition with Connor Shaw is effectively over after Shaw needed surgery on an injured thumb this week.

Coaches have made stopping the run the defence’s No.1 priority in the off-season, which was their reasoning behind first round pick Danny Shelton. Unfortunately it didn’t pay off last week, the Browns gave up 153 yards and two TD’s vs Washington. It will be time to panic if they struggle again tonight, the Bills are missing their first 5 running backs for the game.

DT Phil Taylor hasn’t played since last November, and has a chance to feature this evening. Defensive lineman Billy Winn in “for sure” playing tonight, after spraining his ankle and knee in practice on August 1st. Winn will need to impress, as he is entering his final season of his rookie contract, and is anything of a lock to make the final roster.

One thing to look out for tonight, according to Ohio.com, Jon Gruden is scheduled to commentate on this game and the former coach spent time working with Johnny Manziel this summer in Tampa, FL. He may have an interesting story or two about the controversial second year QB.

I like Cleveland tonight, and think that the injuries to the Bills could be bad enough for this game to get out of hand early. I give the edge to the Cleveland first string vs Buffalo’s firsts, and the Bills lack the depth to compete with Manziel as the backup. Take the Browns -3 in this match-up.

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