The City of Cleveland is still reeling over OBJ’s injury, the stellar performance by Baker Mayfield and the close win vs. the Bengals, but it’s on to the next one. Head coach Jon Gruden and the Las Vegas Raiders are coming to town and the Browns need to win this game to go into the bye week with a comfortable position to set the cruise control on the road towards the playoffs.
The Raiders are coming off a bad 45-20 loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week in Las Vegas. QB Tom Brady showed the world that he’s still got it after all these years by torching the Raiders defense. Brady finished the contest 33/45 and threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns. Raiders QB Derek Carr had a respectable performance. He was 24/36 and threw for 284 yards, two TD’s, one to TE Darren Waller and one to WR Nelson Agholor. However, the aggressive Bucs defense intercepted Carr once and sacked him three times. Gruden’s Raiders just were not able to keep up with HC Bruce Arians’ Buccaneers and their loss dropped them to 3-3 on the season, but they still maintained their 2nd place spot in the AFC West.
On the other hand, led by QB Baker Mayfield, the Browns had an electric and nail-biting 37-34 victory against in-state and division foe, the Cincinnati Bengals. At the beginning of the game, things looked dreadful as Baker was 0/5 in his first five attempts and what topped it off was when he threw an interception intended for WR Odell Beckham Jr. to Bengals CB Darius Phillips. As OBJ ran after the corner to tackle him, he sprang up in pain into a pile of players at the end of the play and was out of the game. We know now that OBJ suffered a torn ACL and his season is out the window.
At halftime, the Browns were down 17-10. According to Baker, Odell told the quarterback in the locker room, “Go be great.” And boy, did he. In the second half, he was near perfect. Baker went 22/23, had 297 yards and five TD’s. We all know about the incredible passes to WR Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins and the game-winning TD pass to WR Donovan Peoples-Jones. The most interesting stat was that Baker’s only incomplete pass was a spike to stop the clock at 11 seconds in the 4th quarter that set up the game-winning touchdown pass. Baker showed the doubtful Browns and the national media that he had that gunslinger arm, incredible accuracy and his performance crowned him AFC Offensive Player of the Week. Also, not to mention DE Myles Garrett had a hell of a game, as well. It earned him the AFC Defensive Player of the Week with a sack and a strip-sack that was recovered by Browns S Ronnie Harrison.
The Browns and Raiders game is an interesting matchup that could go either way. Both teams mirror each other almost completely: good offense with a mediocre defense. The Browns defense, other than Myles Garrett and CB Denzel Ward, has been way below average.
Pro Football Focus has ranked them at 26th in the NFL.
The Browns defense have a challenge on their hands. Raiders QB Derek Carr has been on an impressive run this season, throwing for 1,726 yards, which is 14th best in the NFL. Additionally, he has 13 TD’s, which is tied for 9th-best and only has thrown two INT’s, which is tied for 2nd-best in the league. His 80.5 QBR puts him at 7th-best in the NFL, as well.
Carr has had dangerous players to throw to such as WR Nelson Agholor, the speedy rookie WR Henry Ruggs III and TE Darren Waller. The Browns secondary will have to step up to stop Carr and his weapons from marching down the field. The Raiders defense has also struggled and is ranked by PFF as the 27th defense in the NFL. The narrative of Baker improving his play due to OBJ’s absence is inescapable, but after Baker’s outstanding play last week; it’s hard to argue otherwise. The wide receiver depth is still respectable with WR’s Jarvis Landry, Hollywood Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Let’s not forget about RB Kareem Hunt who has stepped up to the main running back role with RB Nick Chubb’s absence and TE Harrison Bryant who scored two TD’s last week and was excellent stepping in for starting TE Austin Hooper – out last week.
The Browns and Raiders game could go many ways, but buckle up Browns fans, these two teams are likely destined to have a shootout. Cleveland has to focus on getting this win before going into the bye week. Tune in this Sunday at 1 p.m. as the Browns host the Las Vegas Raiders!