Today, the Cleveland Browns take on the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 15. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, or general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
A Strange Sense of Confidence
- Was it just me, or did Browns fans wake up with a bit of, “We’ve got this” feeling? I think it’s a combination of things — first, Raiders fans are still pessimistic as hell, which goes to say something about the way they’ve been playing. Second, even though a lot of players are missing due to COVID-19, the few players that Cleveland did get back feels a bit inspiring. And third, because the Ravens lost yesterday and we know the stakes (first place in the AFC North with a win), I’ve convinced myself that the Browns are going to win today’s game.
- Nick Mullens gets the start at quarterback. I wish it was Baker Mayfield or Case Keenum, but Mullens has no qualms about throwing the ball and often likes to target his tight ends. That’s why it was essential that David Njoku returned from the COVID-19 list for this week’s game; and if Harrison Bryant’s ankle is healed up enough, that stabilizes the tight end position.
- The delaying of the game basically netted three eligible players for the Browns: defensive end Takk McKinley, right guard Wyatt Teller, and safety John Johnson. All three of those returns are huge. We went from having three offensive linemen out, to now being solid in the middle again (guards, center, guard). The tackles are somewhat of a question, since Blake Hance should start at one and Alex Taylor could start at the other.
- Interestingly, on the radio, Joe Thomas threw it out there that we might see Bitonio play left tackle. That could actually make some sense to try out, because then you can put Michael Dunn at left guard and Hance at right tackle, not having to introduce Taylor to his first NFL action.
- Johnson returning is another big boost, since before that, the team was looking at having completely new safeties. Now you only need to fill one of those spots, which can be a mix of M.J. Stewart, Richard LeCounte, or Jovante Moffatt.
- The Raiders actually lost a key player today in rookie nickelback Nate Hobbs, who tested positive for COVID. That’s a huge loss for the Raiders, since he was playing at an All-Pro level at times. They are already without leading tackler Denzel Perryman, and tight end Darren Waller. When you factor in those three guys being out, it kind of equalizes the playing field a bit.
- The Browns can use excuses if they lose this game obviously, but I hope our players are fired up and seize the opportunity. The two players I did not want to lose the most were Myles Garrett and Nick Chubb, and they’re both still here.
- It looks like Dustin Colquitt will remain the team’s punter for another week.
- Kevin Stefanski will not be able to coach tonight’s game, so it’s Alex Van Pelt’s turn to try to spark the offense a bit.
- The biggest worry for me this week is communication issues on offense. If they can avoid those, Cleveland can feed off of the Raiders’ woes.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 3-point underdogs against the Raiders.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “I talked myself into thinking Cleveland could win against the Jets last year, but the wide receiver situation made things terrible for the offense. I hope this year’s COVID game is better, since the spread of COVID was throughout different positions, but didn’t sacrifice the entire depth at one position, thanks to the late returns of Teller and Johnson.” Browns 23, Raiders 14
Barry Shuck: “Before the COVID strike, I was all-in for the Browns to win against Vegas. In looking at the final four contests, Cleveland conceivably could defeat the Raiders, Steelers and Bengals. Even the game against the mighty Packers would have a chance as they have been beaten by the Saints and Vikings, both clubs are mid-tier like the Browns. But the pandemic has struck down what little offense we had left. Already without RT Jack Conklin, and now LT Wills as well? Ick. I had faith in Case Keenum to manage the game and do what he has to do to win, but he’s out too. It’s the other guys that are out that I question. 12 players plus the head coach. Eight of the 12 are starters. Las Vegas has almost no one out in comparison. The O-Line and TE positions are the most troublesome followed by the defensive backfield. Just too much to overcome if you ask me.” Raiders 31, Browns 17
Ezweav: “LOLOL this too perfect. Here we sit with a legit shot, the rest of the division seems to be moving aside, and we have a winnable game that we also MUST win, and of course…we get destroyed by the Covid protocols. Only thing that would have made it even more perfect is for these things to happen a week from now so Clevelanders can get the full experience for Christmas.
I mean it’s bad. We’ve got like no safeties, a PS quarterback going and about all of our offensive line down. The only reason for any optimism whatsoever is that the Raiders are a mess even without the Covid, and (more importantly) we’ve got a really weird history with those guys. I can think of twice (1992 & 2009) where we beat them with essentially no quarterback. Both of those contests featured elite performances by Browns’ running backs (Eric Metcalf and Jerome Harrison, respectively) and we do still have an elite running back (as of this writing).
So, not for any real football reasons, but just the historical weirdness of this matchup makes me inclined to go with the good guys here. It’s going to be really difficult to do, but we can still get a win that everyone will be mad about.” Browns 12, Raiders 11
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.