Two weeks into the 2013 NFL season, it appeared that the Cleveland Browns had given up on any hope of being competitive for the rest of the year. After a 0-2 start, the team traded Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts, and there were rumors Josh Gordon could be next. Heading into Week Five, however, the Browns are looking for their third consecutive win.
The change for Cleveland came when Brian Hoyer took over as the starting quarterback. He has yet to lose since replacing the injured Brandon Weeden and will try to continue the winning streak against the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
Before this year, Hoyer had never attempted more than 53 passes in a season. In two games, he has completed 60 percent of his 93 attempts for 590 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. Conversely, Weeden has been picked off three times, while having thrown for just one score. The career backup defeated the then-winless Minnesota Vikings in his Cleveland debut, but beat a formidable Cincinnati Bengals team in the next game.
"Brian's done a nice job for us coming in, providing that spark," Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas said. "He had two nice games already making the right throws, getting the ball out on time, just making sure everybody's on the same page."
With Weeden still recovering from a thumb injury, it was an easy decision for head coach Rob Chudzinski to give Hoyer the nod. He hasn’t, though, named him the permanent starter. When Weeden is healthy, Chudzinski will have to decide if he wants to bench the team’s first-round draft pick from last year. With just 17 career starts under his belt, the 29-year-old is ready to relinquish his job.
"That's my mindset,'' Weeden said. “I can’t approach it any other way. If I did, I’d be doing a disservice to myself and doing a disservice to this offense. I’m going to work just as hard as I did in the off-season to win the job. I’m going to keep continuing to work just as hard now as I did week one and week two and go from there.''
In Buffalo, there isn’t any debate about benching their starting signal caller. The rookie has won two of his first four starts, including a win on Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champs. It was his worst statistical performance of the season, but it was good enough to beat the Baltimore Ravens.
The running game carried the Bills, with Feed Jackson and C.J. Spiller combining to rush for 164 yards. Spiller hurt his ankle in the contest and is listed as questionable for the game. He wasn’t able to practice on Tuesday, while Jackson was limited with a sprained MCL.
It’s the fourth straight week that two teams will face off on just three days’ rest. With such a short gap in between games, the 2013 Thursday night games have been relatively sloppy. Each one has involved at least four turnovers.
A win for either team would put them in a rare position. A victory for Cleveland would give them their best start in years. They haven’t been over .500 after Week Four since 2007. The Bills haven’t had a winning record since 2004.
'We're not the same Bills," said safety Da’Norris Searcy. "I would say fans are starting to believe. And we're going to keep believing and keep pushing."
Start Time: 8:25 p.m. ET
Betting Odds: Cleveland -3.5, 41
TV Channel: NFL Network
Live Stream: nfl.com/tnf
Prediction: Cleveland 21, Buffalo 20