Thursday Night Football Preview: E.J. Manuel vs. Brian Hoyer

October 3, 2013 • Ben Heck • AFC, Front Page, Preview

In tonight’s Thursday Night Football match-up from Cleveland, the Browns and starting quarterback Brian Hoyer are looking to add on to its early-season success against the rookie-led Buffalo Bills.

Ever since Cleveland drew criticism from all over the nation for trading away its offensive centerpiece––second-year star RB Trent Richardson––to the Colts for a 2014 1st round pick on September 18, the Browns have gone 2-0 with long-time backup quarterback Hoyer under center. Prior to this season, Hoyer spent three seasons in New England (didn’t make a single start) and one season in Arizona (went 0-1 in one start last season).

In his second and third career starts, Hoyer has shown up to play without much of a run game behind him.

Week 3: beat Vikings on road, 31-27
*Hoyer: 30/54, 321 yards, 3 TD, 3 INT
*4 turnovers on offense; forced 3 MIN turnovers
*103 rushing yards (leader was defensive back Josh Aubrey, who ran for 34 yards on a successful fake punt)

Week 4: beat Bengals at home, 17-6
*Hoyer: 25/38, 269 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
*0 offensive turnovers; 2 forced CIN turnovers
*89 rushing yards on 30 carries (veteran Willis McGahee led the charge with 46 yards on 15 carries)

A win tonight would temporarily put the Browns in first place in the AFC North.

As for the 2-2 Bills, they’re just trying to keep pace with the 4-0 AFC East leading Patriots. E.J. Manuel has been inconsistent at times, but without a healthy rushing attack of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson (both are active tonight, but I don’t expect big games from either one against CLE’s No. 6 run defense), defenses may be keying in on Manuel and his mobility a little more than you’d expect.

Cleveland doesn’t have a viable rushing attack without Richardson on the roster, but I’m not sure it’ll matter in tonight’s game. Hoyer will be airing it out with key weapons TE Jordan Cameron (30 receptions, 360 yards, 5 TDs) and WR Josh Gordon (14 receptions, 217 yards, 1 TD in two starts following two-game suspension).

Bold Predictions:

*Hoyer throws for second career 300-yard game against Buffalo’s 23rd-ranked passing defense.
*Cleveland puts up 30 points in a victory, despite being held to under 100 rushing yards.
*Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger have their best games of the season, helping the Browns sack rookie Manuel five times.

Clearly, I think it’ll be all-Cleveland in tonight’s TNF match-up, 31-17.

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