Cleveland is coming off a big win over the Baltimore Ravens that brought the Browns to just one game back in the AFC North Division. For their part, the Raiders are currently in their annual end-of-season slide as they have lost five of their past six games and got waxed by the Kansas City Chiefs last week.
That run of play would normally give the Browns a big edge, but they enter the game in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak that has sidelined head coach Kevin Stefanski and more than 20 players, including so many starters that the Browns are currently down to Nick Mullens as QB1 and Kyle Lauletta as QB2.
No one is shedding any tears for the Browns, least of all the league office, so here is everything you need to know as Cleveland looks to keep the pressure on the Ravens with a win over the Raiders in a nationally televised game.
Records: Cleveland is 7-6. Las Vegas is 6-7
Conference records: Cleveland is 4-5. Las Vegas is 4-4
Kickoff: 5 p.m.
Stadium: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland
TV: NFL Network (national), WOIO-19 (in Cleveland)
Announcers: Joe Davis, Kurt Warner, Melissa Stark (sidelines) and Steve Wyche (sidelines)
Radio: 92.3 The Fan (WKRK), ESPN 850 WKNR and WNCX (98.5)
Announcers: Jim Donovan, Doug Dieken, Nathan Zegura (sideline reporter)
Last meeting: The Raiders won the last meeting, 16-6, in Week 8 of the 2020 season. (Boxscore)
All-time series: The Raiders lead the all-time regular-season series, 14-10. The Browns last win at home against the Raiders came in Week 8 of the 2014 season.
Weather: 29 degrees and mostly clear, with a 5 percent chance of precipitation and 10 mph winds from the south (weather.com)
Uniform: The Browns will be wearing brown jerseys and white pants.
Back at it with the tops & ⬜️ pants. pic.twitter.com/WdGils4GWm— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 19, 2021
Injury report*: Browns - Questionable: tight end Harrison Bryant (ankle), defensive tackle Malik Jackson (knee) and wide receiver Anthony Schwartz (concussion). Out: running back Kareem Hunt (ankle) and cornerback Greg Newsome II. COVID-19: quarterback Baker Mayfield, quarterback Case Keenum, running back Kareem Hunt, offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., offensive tackle James Hudson III, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, wide receiver JoJo Natson, tight end Austin Hooper, tight end Ross Travis, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, defensive Ifeadi Odenigbo, defensive tackle Malik McDowell, linebacker Jacob Phillips, linebacker Mack Wilson Sr., linebacker Tony Fields II, cornerback Troy Hill, cornerback A.J. Green, safety John Johnson III, safety Ronnie Harrison Jr., safety Grant Delpit, safety Nate Meadors and punter Jamie Gillan.
Raiders - Questionable: defensive end Carl Nassib (knee). Out: tight end Darren Waller (knee/back), linebacker Denzel Perryman (ankle) and cornerback Trayvon Muller (toe).
*Subject to change as the NFL moved the final roster decisions for the game to Monday at 2 p.m.
The line: Browns -3
A Few Things to Watch For
What will the offense look like? - Cleveland comes into the game without its top two quarterbacks, one of its best running backs, a tight end, a member of the offensive line and one of their top wide receivers.
So what does new quarterback Nick Mullens have to work with?
Well, there are still running backs Nick Chubb and D’Ernest Johnson, who should wake up Tuesday morning extremely tired after a busy day of work.
Tight end David Njoku is also back after a stay on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, and wide receivers Donovan Peoples-Jones and Rashard Higgins have shown their ability in the past.
The key to everything is how the offensive line will hold up with Blake Hance and Alex Taylor (probably) stepping into starting roles at the tackle spots.
Maxx Crosby is having an All-Pro caliber season— PFF Las Vegas Raiders (@PFF_Raiders) December 16, 2021
☠ 90.9 PFF Grade (2nd among Edges)
☠ 91.8 Pass Rush Grade (2nd)
☠ 78 pressures (1st)
☠ 25.8% Pass Rush Win % (t-1st) pic.twitter.com/os2zmPS74p
That will be a tall task given that they will be going up against Las Vegas defensive ends Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue, who have combined for 14 sacks and 42 quarterback hits this season.
If Hance and Taylor can do a decent enough job and not get Mullens, Chubb or Johnson destroyed, then the offense might be able to do enough to keep the Browns in the game.
Keep an eye on the slot — The Browns struggle to contain even the most average of tight ends, so they are catching a break as Las Vegas tight end Darren Waller has been ruled out with knee and back injuries.
That doesn’t mean it will be an easy afternoon, however, as wide receiver Hunter Renfrow has caught at least five passes in all but two games and was one of the lone bright spots against the Chiefs, finishing with 13 catches and 117 yards.
The Browns are down cornerbacks Greg Newsome II and Troy Hill, along with all their of their starting safeties, so while keeping an eye on Renfrow might not be easy, he is someone the defense needs to focus on.
Win the turnover battle - The Browns have rediscovered their mojo on defense in recent weeks thanks to turnovers, as they have forced eight turnovers in the past three games.
On the flip side, the Raiders have given the ball away 12 times in their past six games, including five turnovers last week against the Chiefs.
Forcing some turnovers and giving the offense a short field is always good; with no one really knowing what the Browns will get from their quarterback or offensive line, it could be the difference between a Victory Tuesday celebration and another frustrating defeat.
A final quote
Quarterback Nick Mullens (via a team-provided transcript):
“I think we have done a great job. I really do. We are meeting virtually, and we practiced today. The energy is off the charts. I think that is the coolest thing about it. We have one practice to prepare for the Raiders, and the energy was great. We were excited to be out there playing football, doing what we love and doing our jobs. Like I said, the focus, the energy and the camaraderie, it is still there, and we are excited.”
These are just a few things to keep an eye on; now it is time to have your say. What are you looking for from the Browns in Monday’s game against the Raiders?