What are the Las Vegas Raiders? Are they a good team? Middle row? Defeaters of the powerful?
Are the Raiders a good football team? Their record doesn’t indicate they are as this squad is currently 3-3-0. Can the Browns stay with them in this week’s game? The Browns are 5-2-0, so already there is that advantage.
Las Vegas’ losses are to the New England Patriots (36-20), Buffalo Bills (30-23) and this past weekend to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (45-20). That is a ton of points scored against them in defeat. Their wins include beating the Carolina Panthers (34-30), New Orleans Saints (34-24) and the mighty Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs (40-32).
Every opponent - with the exception of the Panthers - are playoff-caliber teams. The Bills and Bucs are assuredly going to the post-season. The Raiders gave the high-flying Chiefs their only loss. They beat the Saints who seem to always be in the playoffs. Those are quality wins.
What will Mayfield and Company have to do to defeat them? Here at DBN we got the opinion of three writers to find out.
Let’s just ask the question: What three things do the Browns need to do to beat the Raiders?
1. Slow down Waller
I’m sure this isn’t breaking news, but the Browns stink at stopping tight ends and there aren’t many better than the Raiders 6’- 6” tight end Darren Waller. Will the Browns be able to slow him down on third down situations? With WR Henry Ruggs stretching the field the Browns will have to handle Waller underneath, something that has been a major struggle this season.
2. Don’t get beat deep
How many times have we seen someone running deep and WIDE open this season? Chances are the Raiders are going to try and take their shots and man do they have the weapons to do it. Ruggs is averaging over 20-yards per catch this season even with his limited playing time. Honestly, if the Browns only give up one long TD I will consider it a win. I think that says more about the Browns’ safety play than the Raiders.
3. Good Baker
Will we get the Baker that tries to make too many tough throws or will we get the Baker who takes what is given and lets the run game do the damage? The Raiders do not pressure the QB very much and so far when Baker has been protected he has been more good than bad. I think if Baker is good, the Browns get the win.
1. Run the ball
In case anyone hasn’t been following the Browns this year; running the ball is the engine that makes the Browns’ offense go. Opposing defenses are so keyed in on our running game that in some games we don’t even need to run the ball once to “establish the running game:” it comes pre-established before we ever play an offensive snap. But when we are able to have a good success rate in the running game – even against 8+ men in the box – it helps us create more manageable down/distance situations, convert short yardage plays, and control the clock later in games and even halves. We’ll need that against the Raiders.
2. Create big plays on defense
Whether they come in the form of sacks, TFLs, or turnovers, big defensive plays are arguably the best chance defenses have at stalling the high-powered offenses of the contemporary era of pro (and college and probably high school) football. We may not see defenses that smother opposing teams and give up only the occasional first down, and expectations for defensive success have to change. Turnover margin still correlates strongly with wins and losses, and if the Browns defense can force a few turnovers it will go a long way towards winning that battle.
3. Do something to slow down Derek Carr
You’ve got to tip your cap to the guy - he’s having a great year so far. Quarterback Carr leads the NFL with a 73.1% completion percentage. He’s also tied for 2nd in INT%, making goal Number 1 above even more difficult for us. He’s 7th in the league in yards per passing attempt, and 2nd in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, which factors in TDs, INTs, and sacks. It might not be enough to make a few big plays in this one, I think we are going to have to limit Carr’s efficiency and force him into some boring, old-fashioned bad play.
1. Score early
Las Vegas does not do well coming from behind. If the Browns can score early and often, the Raiders aren’t designed offensively to start throwing a ton of passes and need their running game behind RB Josh Jacobs to keep them in the game. The Raiders average a mere 15.2 points in the first half, so the possibility is there.
2. COVID Raiders
The Raiders spanking new stadium will have fans for the first time Saturday for the UNLV game, but Las Vegas has self-mandated that the entire season will be without fans for the entire 2020 season. Meanwhile, the Browns are allowing fans to their games and will need the tidy few to become very vocal. The Raiders have seven players that remain on the COVID list, and just released four of their offensive linemen off this list. CB Damon Arnette and S Johnathan Abram are among the players that remain on the list. This could cripple their defensive backfield. For the past two weeks, this roster has been decimated by this virus and just can’t seem to get it under control.
3. Unleash Kareem Hunt
The Raiders’ defense is near the bottom of the league in yards-per-carry allowed with a 4.6 yard average. They have also allowed the most rushing touchdowns. If head coach Kevin Stefanski can utilize Kareem Hunt and simply run for the majority of plays in each drive, he is well-rested and made for this offense. The offensive line loves the running game and boasts the NFL’s second rated rushing offense with the second most attempts. Hunt has a 4.91 yard average per carry so far and is a jewel in the short passing game.