Bad Weather in the Forecast
- I’m not referring to the cold weather so much — if conditions were fair for this game, then it had “shootout” written all over it. In fact, when Baker Mayfield faced Derek Carr back in 2018, the final score saw the Raiders win 45-42 in overtime. I figured that Cleveland would have the slight edge in a toss-up this time around, just because of home field advantage. But the weather forecast for Sunday throws everything off.
- The game-time temperature is 41 degrees. Winds are supposed to come from the West at 24 miles per hour, with gusts up to 40 miles per hour. That is going to make the temperature feel like 30 degrees. On top of that, rain is expected to fall all morning, and then there’s a 50% chance of rainfall throughout the game, possibly changing to a rain/snow mix depending on the temperature.
- Which quarterback tries to throw the ball in that weather? On a normal day, both teams can score easily, but their defenses are terrible. However, Las Vegas’ strength has been via the air on offense, while the Browns’ strength (although not as much in recent weeks) has been on the ground. The Browns’ run defense is still among the best in the NFL, while the Raiders’ run defense is average at best.
- Field goals will be hard to rely on. Depending on how well the kickers are connecting on extra points in pre-game, this could be a week where the Browns try to unleash their two-point conversion packages.
- Carr likes to be a gunslinger and has a pretty deep ball. How easy will it be to accurately time those types of passes if the ball gets caught in a wind gust? If Carr opts to be aggressive, Cleveland’s defensive backs could have some opportunities at some 50/50 balls.
- I wish I could break this game down a lot more, but given the even nature of both teams to begin with, the weather truly does throw everything up in the air.
Personnel and Others to Watch for Cleveland
- At running back, Kareem Hunt can probably handle a heavy workload, as he played nearly the entire game last week and has a bye week coming up to rest. Although he’s had a few close calls on fumbles this year, he hasn’t had much fumbling issues in his career. The question is: if the Browns do have a run-heavy approach, then they will need to lean on D’Ernest Johnson or Dontrell Hilliard for ball security. Who do they trust more not to put the ball on the ground? It’s probably Johnson, but maybe they’ll like Hilliard’s speed in this one.
- Without Odell Beckham, and with KhaDarel Hodge returning, I expect Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins to be the outside receivers, with Hodge resuming his role as the slot receiver. That would put Donovan Peoples-Jones back to his duties as the return man, with only a few reps on offense.
- One thing that should be taken out of the playbook this week are the tosses on double reverses, or Landry throwing passes. Those are too risky to do in wet and windy conditions. The only play I’d stick with in some cases are end arounds to Landry and him running the ball.
- Defensively, the run defense has to stay focused, and then simply hope that the weather conditions hurt Las Vegas’ passing game. We’ve seen seven games of bad pass defense, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better because of the linebacker and safety play. Myles Garrett could be facing the 6-8, 380 pound Trent Brown this week — so while you don’t expect Garrett to go to a power move against him, maybe he can use that bend or inside move to disrupt Carr.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “Bad weather conditions don’t always mean low-scoring games. The Chiefs destroyed the Broncos 43-16 last week in a snow game. And while Denver likely didn’t stand a chance in normal conditions, they appeared to accelerate their struggles by having fumbles/turnovers/misses due to the weather. Cleveland and Las Vegas are more even, and it’s hard to predict which team the weather will favor. I don’t think it’ll be a defensive struggle all game, but I don’t see a shootout either. Instead, we’ll see the rare, “normal football score” from a few years ago, with Cleveland getting the edge.” Browns 25, Raiders 20
Barry Shuck: “The Browns are 5-2-0 while the Raiders are 3-3-0. Las Vegas has played five of their six games against very good or playoff-bound clubs. They beat the Saints (who are usually in the playoffs), and gave the Super Bowl champ Chiefs their only loss. They were beaten by Buffalo (5-2-0), New England (2-4-0) and Tampa Bay (5-2-0). Admittedly, the Patriots are a shell of their former selves, but at the time of the Raiders win, that placed New England at 2-1-0.
Cleveland? Four wins against Cincinnati (twice -1-5-1), Dallas (2-5-0), and the Football Team (2-5-0). Against the good and elite teams? Edged the 4-2-0 Indianapolis Colts, was embarrassed by the Ravens (5-1-0) and got body-slammed like a little brother to Pittsburgh (6-0-0). The Browns can make the playoffs by beating other lower-tier teams, but struggle against teams that are more balanced.
There is a saying: you are who you have beaten.” Raiders 48, Browns 20
Ezweav: “Baker’s play last week was even more important than the win itself- though the win was incredibly important if an actual playoff run is to become a reality in 2020. While his performance was encouraging, the defense appeared to regress (which is hard to do since it’s been hot, sweaty garbage all year).
The Raiders are a good team, recent losses notwithstanding. Anyone thinking this will be a cakewalk is about to get beat up by the reality stick. We can definitely put up some points against them, but the next time our defense stops somebody will be the first time, and at the time of this writing Myles is looking questionable. No bueno.” Browns 32, Raiders 30
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.