ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Defensive tackle Kyle Williams reflects on a tumultuous week and wonders whether Mother Nature might have handed the Buffalo Bills a unifying favor.
The snowstorm that paralyzed much of the Buffalo region and forced the Bills to relocate their home game to Detroit provided Williams a glimpse of the team's resilient makeup.
Much like the community that didn't back down in the face of more than 6 feet of snow that fell, the Bills overcame their own adversity with a resounding 38-3 rout of the New York Jets on Monday night.
"I think that you can see that guys stuck together, had some adversity and didn't use it as an excuse," Williams said. "Maybe the fiber of the community is in this team."
With much of the snow melted, there's no better chance for the Bills (6-5) to continue proving that Sunday, when they host Cleveland (7-4) in a key AFC playoff picture showdown.
It's a game between two franchises that share the Lake Erie shoreline — and lengthy playoff droughts.
The Bills haven't made the postseason since 1999, and own the NFL's longest active streak. It's been 12 years for the Browns.
"You talk about uncharted territory," Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer said. "I think for a team that hasn't been in this situation for a long time, you see guys understanding what's at stake."
The Browns have won six of eight, including a last-second 26-24 win at Atlanta last week. They're also showing signs of having developed a new mettle under coach Mike Pettine, who spent last season as Bills defensive coordinator.
Pettine isn't surprised by the character the Bills displayed in overcoming the storm, and anticipates to be greeted by an "insanely loud" crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"I know what we're up against," Pettine said. "I don't know if our players do, but they'll get a taste of it early on."
Some things to look for in a game between non-division rivals meeting for the seventh time in eight years:
PLAYOFF PICTURE: The Browns are in a tightly-contested AFC North race that features all four teams with seven wins, with Cincinnati (7-3-1) holding a slim edge. The Browns close against four of five opponents currently holding winning records.
The Bills have little margin for error. Their chances are slim of catching AFC East-leading New England (9-2). Overall, Buffalo's 3-5 conference record is the worst among the 11 AFC teams with winning records. And Kansas City (7-4) and San Diego (7-4) have the tiebreaking edge over Buffalo after beating the Bills this season.
After playing Cleveland, Buffalo travels to Denver (8-3), hosts Green Bay (8-3) and closes at Oakland (1-10) and New England.
BAD MEMORIES: The Browns and Bills have played several not-so-instant-classics in recent years.
In 2007, the Browns beat the Bills 8-0 at Cleveland in near whiteout conditions in which the Bills managed 232 yards offense and 11 first downs.
In 2009, Billy Cundiff hit an 18-yard field goal as time expired in a 6-3 win at Buffalo, where the Browns had 193 yards offense, and quarterback Derek Anderson completed 2 of 17 attempts for 23 yards.
Last season, the Browns beat the Bills 37-24 in a game both starting quarterbacks — Hoyer and Buffalo's EJ Manuel — sustained knee injuries.
UNWELCOME BACK: Pettine doesn't expect he'll get a warm reception Sunday. That's nothing compared to what might be in store for Browns safety Donte Whitner, who spent his first five seasons with the Bills.
The 2006 first-round draft pick bolted Buffalo in free agency in 2011 after being unhappy with the Bills' final contract offer. He's since taken to Twitter numerous times to express his displeasure. That included last summer when Whitner challenged Bills rookie receiver Sammy Watkins, and enraged Buffalo fans during the team's sale process by suggesting the franchise will relocate to Toronto.
"I'm sure I'll get a standing ovation," Whitner said with a smile regarding his return.
Bills running back Fred Jackson called Whitner's posts "dumb," and accused him of "being an idiot and trying to ruffle feathers."
ON THE RUN: The Browns' rookie running back tandem of Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell has provided a formidable one-two punch to first-year coordinator Kyle Shanahan's attack. After scoring just four touchdowns rushing last season, Cleveland is tied for second in the NFL with 14 this year.
Pettine is committed to sticking with the run despite the return of receiver Josh Gordon, who had eight catches for 120 yards Sunday after serving a 10-game league suspension for violating the drug policy
BY THE SACKFUL: In one season in Buffalo, Pettine instilled an aggressive approach in helping the Bills finish second in the NFL with a franchise-best 57 sacks. The Bills are already ahead of that pace with a league-leading 46 under Jim Schwartz, the former Lions coach.
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