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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening
Let's talk about expectations.
The Bills are favored vs. the Browns, but Cleveland has three more wins than Buffalo this season and three consecutive wins over Buffalo in the series.
Tell me: what would be perceived to be a bigger surprise — a Buffalo loss or a Cleveland loss?
The Bills have clearly improved throughout the season, and close losses to Baltimore, Chicago, Kansas City, New England and Pittsburgh reflect well on Buffalo.
Oh, the Browns have some respectable losses, too — Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Baltimore, Atlanta, the N.Y. Jets, Jacksonville. But they have also shown a much stronger closing mentality lately.
The Bills? Not so much. One of their victories was by two points against struggling Detroit. The other came after Cincinnati, another two-win team, seemed poised to blow them out of the building.
Surely some are thinking, "Here's the Bills' chance to pick on a team more their speed." To that I say: it's going to take a very good game from Buffalo to win Sunday. The Bills are going to be sound in all three phases.
The Browns aren't a cinch, and if they overlook Buffalo, they will pay for it, but if they lose Sunday, it will feel like an upset. The standings tell us that much, and so do these teams' recent play.
This makes for an interesting sort of pressure on Eric Mangini's team Sunday. A victory gets the Browns to 6-7; a loss leaves them needing three straight to get to .500. And, as we write this, the Browns still have faint playoff hopes.
Let's see how Cleveland fares. But I know this: a win won't be celebrated like, say, the upset of New Orleans back in October. And that's progress, too, you know.