On tonight’s edition of Thursday Night Football we get to see two teams that spend most of their time far away from the spotlight. Somewhat surprisingly, both the Bills and the Browns are at .500 coming in 2-2 after splitting their first four games of the season.
The Browns have won their last two games since making a change at quarterback to Brian Hoyer who has bee solid as a starting QB and led Cleveland to wins over Minnesota and Cincinnati. The Bills season has been up and down highlighted by a win last week against the Ravens. None of the Bills games have been decided by more than one score with three decided by a field goal or less.
We can hope Buffalo’s trend of close games continues which would give us our first dramatic Thursday Night Football game. Here’s what you can expect for fantasy football as we take a position-by-position look at the fantasy contributors for tonight.
Both QB’s are not starters in single-QB leagues for this week. Brian Hoyer makes a decent one-week fill-in if you are desperate, and is emerging as a QB2 on a weekly basis. In his first two starts he has thrown for just under 600 yards and for five touchdowns. Last week, he didn’t turn the ball over and threw a pair touchdowns against the Bengals. Thursday Night Football isn’t normally a place for big time performances, but the Bills have allowed over 300 yards passing and multiple touchdowns in the last two weeks, so I see Hoyer as a solid QB2 play.
On the other side, E.J. Manuel faces the tough task of toing on the road against a solid Browns pass defense. I’d stay away if possible even in two-QB leagues.
The Browns RB situation is still taking shape after the team traded away Trent Richardson to the Colts. Cleveland signed Willis McGahee to be their number one back and he’s shown some growth in his first two weeks making him a long shot flex play if you’re desperate. He’ll share time with Chris Ogonnaya who gets most of the opporutnities in the passing game. Ogbonnaya is only a desperate flex play in the deepest of PPR leagues.
For Buffalo, the running game is pretty banged up and its not clear who will get the call this week. If you have other options, avoid it entirely since there’s so many unknowns. C.J. Spiller was expected to be the lead back but he’s a gametime decision with an ankle injury and has only gone over 100 yards once this season. Spiller also hasn’t been able to get in the end zone this season. The Touchdowns have gone to Fred Jackson who is also questionable but looks like he’ll give it a go tonight. If you had to start one of the two as a flex, I’d roll with Jackson but even as a flex he’s high-risk. Even the Bills third RB, Tashard Choice got some early week buzz, but I wouldn’t play him this week. The Browns allow the fifth-least fantasy points to opposing running backs making this a bad matchup even if the Bills backfield can get healthy enough to play.
Josh Gordon is the only Browns receiver worth top-20 consideration this week. He missed the first two weeks of the season due to suspension but has been extremely effective since coming back with 217 yards and a score in two games. He’s been targeted more than any Browns WR in both games including a huge 19 targets in week three in his and Hoyer’s first game in the starting lineup. He’s a solid WR2 this week against the Bills who second-most fantasy points per game to opposing WR in the league.
The Bills WR don’t merit consideration as WR1 or WR2 in my opinion, but both Steve Johnson and Robert Woods can be used as flex plays or WR3 if needed this week. Johnson is coming off a horrible week last week finishing with just one catch for -1 yards. He also has struggled with a hamstring injury and will be covered by Joe Haden most of the game. I actually like Woods as the better Bills WR this week as he and fellow-rooke Manuel continue to develop their connection. Woods had 80 yards and a touchdown last week and was targeted 10 times agains the Jets two weeks ago. He’s a flex play option if you’re diggin on the waiver wire for a plug-and-play option.
The fantasy star for the Browns this season so far has undoubtedly been tight end Jordan Cameron. He’s been the best tight end not named Jimmy Graham this season and has three more catches than the Saints super-weapon on the same abount of targets. Cameron is locked in as a a top TE who I would start over every TE except Graham this week.
The Bills don’t have nearly as powerful of a weapon but Scott Chandler is a big red zone target that makes a solid TE2. He doesn’t get enough consistent looks to merit TE21 consideration outside of emergency situations.
The Browns and Bills defenses are both available enough to be part of your regular streaming defense schedule. Cleveland is in the top 10 in the league right now in ESPN standard scoring after back-to-back 12 point games. The Browns D is pretty solid overall and makes a solid pickup if you need a quick start option. The Bills defense had five picks last week but in their only road game they were demolished by the New York Jets, so I’d stay away from Buffalo’s D.
Since the Browns are at home and the Bills D has struggled on the road, I think Cleveland will get the win tonight behind a solid outing from Hoyer, Gordon, and Cameron. Buffalo’s defense’s road woes concern me, and if Geno Smith can carve them up I don’t see them stopping Hoyer enough to get them the win tonight.
I think we’ll see a decent amount of offense since the Bills like to push the tempo, so my final pick is…