Cleveland Browns: Ben Roethlisberger

CLEVELAND – Three quick-hit nuggets on the Cleveland Browns entering Sunday’s game with Buffalo:

First: As if the pregame verbal sparring didn’t already deepen the intrigue for this game, the former marriage of coaching staffs should create a fascinating chess match.

Talk about familiarity. Browns defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, who was with Mike Pettine on Buffalo’s defensive staff a year ago, said the Bills have Cleveland’s gameplans from last season and their defensive playbook. The Browns have the Bills’ playbook and “all their installation,” O’Neil said.

Most NFL teams know each other. These two know each other, though O’Neil adds the Browns have changed their defensive terminology since last year.

“We were able to study some of that stuff and I’m sure they were able to study some of our stuff,” O’Neil said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about players making plays.”

Second: Ben Roethlisberger said it perfectly when asked if he’s ever seen an AFC North race quite like this, with all four teams entering the final five weeks with seven wins.

Nope, he said, because “Cleveland hasn’t been doing what it’s been doing.”

Surely he’s referring to the Browns’ six straight double-digit-loss seasons, a streak the 7-4 Browns snapped with Sunday’s win over Atlanta.

Usually, the Browns are in the cheerful holiday mood, ensuring the Steelers, Bengals and Ravens have a few extra wins to pad their playoff hopes.

Instead, they plan to make December interesting.

Third: Jordan Cameron was working with the rest of the pass-catchers in the open porton of Friday’s practice. He has been limited all week, but the Browns are hopeful they will get him back after he missed four weeks with a concussion.

If he plays, this will likely be the first time that three principles from the Browns offense -- Cameron, receiver Josh Gordon and quarterback Brian Hoyer -- have played together for a full game since Sept. 29, 2013, against Cincinnati (Hoyer got hurt early in the Buffalo game the next week).

Cameron and Gordon combined for 14 catches for 162 yards and one touchdown in a 17-6 win over the Bengals.

First and 10: Scoring and scoreboards

November, 19, 2013
First and 10 talks Steelers, scoring and stadiums ...
  1. The Browns talked big things a week ago when they said they were up to the task of playing in a big game in November. Now they are 4-6 and the half-full view says that with games at home the next two weeks, they could be 6-6 in December. How the rest of the season goes will depend on how the Browns fare against the Steelers on Sunday.
  2. But a week after feeling good and upbeat after a win, the Browns now look like a team that has lost four-of-five, which it has. The Steelers? After an 0-4 start, they’ve won four-of-six.
  3. No team has treated the Browns since 1999 like the kid brother Rob Chudzinski mentioned than the Steelers, with thrashings and embarrassing losses piled on each other. The lone Browns win in a game Ben Roethlisberger started might have even been a loss, because it started a streak of wins that saved Eric Mangini’s job for one season. To say the Steelers have owned the Browns is an insult to ownership.
  4. By the way ... that motivational speech from the former playmaker himself ... Michael Irvin ... Never mind.
  5. Give coach Rob Chudzinski credit for one thing -- he is very adept at defusing things in his media get-togethers. He was asked if the second quarter against Cincinnati was a snowball going downhill, and he simply said a lot of atypical things happened. Which was wise. He took what could have been an issue -- “how could a coach let things get away that badly” -- by stating a simple fact. It was a very deft statement.
  6. How advantageous is it to intercept a pass and return it for a touchdown? Consider that Sunday was the 88th time that had happened in Browns history (Joe Haden did the deed for the Browns). The Browns have won 79 percent of those games, having gone 69-18-1. The one in five they lost was last Sunday.
  7. Backup linebacker Eric Martin must have some unbelievable potential. The guy is a penalty machine on special teams, and he was part of the duo that missed the block on Cincinnati’s blocked punt. His penalties have been downright bizarre. Against Cincinnati, he was flagged for unnecessary roughness when the Bengals sent a kickoff 5 yards out of the end zone. Against Green Bay he was flagged for the same when he blocked a Packers player out of bounds, then blocked him again on the sidelines. On the blocked punt, Martin blocked down on a player already engaged with a Browns protector, which provided the gap for the block. Yet while the bottom of the roster is juggled, Martin remains. Interesting.
  8. Cincinnati’s 31-point quarter was not a record by a team against the Browns. Green Bay holds that mark, as the Packers scored 35 points on Nov. 12, 1967, in the first quarter of a 55-7 rout over the Browns. Longtime Browns watchers recall a player named Travis Williams not once, but twice, returning a kickoff for a touchdown in that game.
  9. The 31 points by the Bengals matched the worst second quarter in Browns history. The team had given up that amount twice -- in 2013 against the Bengals and in 1990 against the Houston Oilers.
  10. It’s really something to hear a mayor of a struggling major city in the rust belt and an NFL team president make a convincing case that $30 million from said city’s general fund is not a bad cost for cosmetic repairs to a stadium. Then you think what $30 million can do for a city, and how that compares to beautiful scoreboards. Cleveland City Council should have fun with this vote Monday, but it would be a surprise if it didn’t pass. Art Modell’s decision was not that long ago.

AFC North quarterback snap counts

August, 27, 2013
Coming into the preseason, everyone would agree that the Cleveland Browns' Brandon Weeden needed to receive the most work of any AFC North quarterback. Not only did he have to prove he's the starter, but he's also in his second season and would benefit from the experience.

Three weeks into the preseason, Weeden ranks fifth among projected starters with 88 snaps this preseason. It will likely surprise you that he doesn't lead the division in that category. The Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco is third with 95. Only Ryan Tannehill and Jake Locker have played more than Flacco this preseason.

Flacco's snap counts are skewed. He logged a league-high 59 plays in Week 3 because the Carolina Panthers scored off three returns (punt, interception and fumble), which gave the ball right back to Flacco and the Ravens' offense. Flacco ranked 19th in snaps through two preseason games and played the least amount of snaps of any AFC North starting quarterback in Week 2.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sits in the middle of the pack. He has played 76 snaps, which is the 14th-most among projected starters.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has the least amount of snaps among AFC North quarterbacks, ranking 23rd in the league with 63. He played the fewest among division quarterbacks in Week 1 (11 snaps) and Week 3 (28 snaps). If you take out the projected starters who missed a preseason game, there are only six who have played fewer snaps than Dalton this preseason.

Thanks to ESPN's Mike Sando for keeping the updated quarterback snap counts.
The third preseason game, which is often considered the dress rehearsal, was more of a disaster at times for the Baltimore Ravens in a 34-27 loss to Carolina on Thursday night. You can click here for my observations on the game. For what's happening around the division, here's the wake-up call ...

RAVENS: The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston believes the Ravens failed Thursday night to build any sort of offensive momentum heading into the regular season. "There is no need to panic yet, because most offenses are behind the defenses at this time of year, and the Ravens have some proven commodities with [Joe] Flacco, running back Ray Rice, fullback Vonta Leach and receiver Torrey Smith," Preston wrote. "But you'd at least like to see more life in the offense, and so far there hasn't been much."

BENGALS: Taylor Mays is no lock to survive the final cutdown, and the final two preseason games could determine the safety's fate. "If they went with four [safeties], Mays could be on the bubble," wrote Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer. "Reggie Nelson, George Iloka and Shawn Williams figure to be locks with Mays and Jeromy Miles vying for a spot. Miles saw the second-most snaps on special teams during the regular season and was second in tackles."

STEELERS: Ben Roethlisberger is the oldest and most experienced quarterback on the Steelers for the first time since he entered the league in 2004. He is the player responsible for making sure the new quarterbacks -- Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones and John Parker Wilson -- know what they're doing. "It's definitely different," Roethlisberger told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I wish I knew the offense even better than I do, just because I feel I know my answers will be even more right. I do the best I can to talk with Todd, to know the answers, so I can help these guys because they come to me and ask. And even if they don't come and ask, even in practice, if I see something, I'll come up to them and say, 'Do this,' or 'I'm thinking do this.' It helps to have that growth in this offense."

BROWNS: Wide receiver Greg Little said he will act more responsibly after it was reported that he wrecked his car driving 127 mph, which was more than 70 mph over the legal speed limit. "It's obviously something that I've got to take very seriously and slow my speeds down and be cautious of others on the road," Little said, via The Plain Dealer. "I could have seriously put my life and other lives in danger." Little was cited in April for drag racing after he crashed his expensive, high-performance Audi into a guardrail, took out a light pole and left more than 40 yards of brake tracks, according to a police report. Little was not hurt in the crash, which records say took place at 2:47 a.m., but said he understands his behavior was unacceptable.