When the NFL Network saw the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns on the network’s Thursday night schedule they must have groaned. Sure, every team has to play on Thursday night game, but why not a Bills game against the New England Patriots or a Browns game against maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers? Now they had to broadcast two teams that were destined for the top of the 2014 draft as all of the preseason power rankings indicated.
Much to the joy of the NFL Network a funny thing happened on the way to this slug of a match-up — both teams have actually exceeded expectations. The Bills and Browns both faced down some pretty tough early schedules to sit at 2-2, and one of these squads will walk out of Cleveland on Thursday night with a record over .500.
While their record after Week 5 may not mean much in the long run they’ve certainly generated some interest in this Thursday night tilt. Sunday’s game against Baltimore drew huge ratings in the Buffalo market, and it finished No. 2 for all of the day’s games. These are two hungry fan bases and a whiff of early season success has driven interest up in a big way. That means good things for the NFL Network.
It does make for a great story, perfect for primetime really. Two young teams, one with a rookie QB in E.J. Manuel and one with a journeyman in Brian Hoyer, trying to let the country know that they are contenders. For many on both rosters it will only be their first or second national primetime game. There will be some jitters, but there will also be some excitement. There will also be high stakes in this one and the NFL couldn’t be happier.
Really, what’s not to like about this match-up? These are two teams that have played as gritty as anybody in the first four weeks of the seasons with young skill players, tough defensive players, and enthusiastic rookie head coaches. The Bills and the Browns are trying to shove their way into contention, and you can watch it all this Thursday night on the NFL Network.