The Raiders entered Miami 0-2 and fell short again in another game in which they were leading going into the fourth quarter. Now the Raiders are in must-win territory, as an 0-4 start is a season killer. If the Raiders were to summon the ghost of the 1992 Chargers they would be in good shape, alas Gruden might be a bad coach but he is no shaman. Perhaps the next best salve is rolling into the Bay, the Cleveland Browns. The Browns are coming off their first win in the last 33 games; if the Raiders can’t get it right against this team, well, might as well call it a season early.
Tale of the Tape
Passing Yards Allowed per Game
Rushing Yards Allowed per Game
In order for the Raiders to win they will need to continue to rely on a heavy passing attack against the Browns. Amari Cooper was eliminated by shadow corner Xavien Howard- yes, I was wrong. He will look to bounce back against rookie Left Cornerback Denzel Ward - a task easier said than done. This season the number four overall draft pick has logged two interceptions and a forced fumble so far - picking on Ward will not be the game plan. Instead, the Raiders should focus on attacking RCB Terrance Mitchell who has been less successful in stopping opposing receivers downfield.
The Raider should use rejuvenated tight end Jared Cook to force the Browns linebackers into coverage mismatch situations. Again, not going to be an easy task as the Browns have middle linebacker Joe Schobert who ranks as the 6th best cover linebacker this season according to PFF. The passing game is the weapon of choice used by the Raiders, but the Browns may have the defense necessary to silence the 6th ranked total offense (400.7yards per game).
The Raiders have a tendency to feed Marshawn Lynch until right about the fourth quarter when they start to surrender points by bulk. Lynch only has nine fourth quarter carries through three weeks. What Gruden has yet to realize is that for Lynch to succeed, he needs the ball more than most backs. It’s understandable when you’re losing late in games, but it seems that once the third quarter ends and the game enters its last leg, they forget about Lynch. He will be this game’s MVP, as the Raiders need to close this game out the right way. The coaching staff will be playing conservatively again towards the end by letting Marshawn enjoy the fruits of his labor. While it would seem that running the ball heavy into a tough defensive front doesn’t make much sense, the alternative is far worse. The line is led by 2017 number 1 overall pick Myles Garrett, coupled with the strong pair of rising star Defensive Tackle Larry Ogunjobi and the return of injured 2016 33rd overall pick Emmanuel Ogbah. The Browns have invested into and has shown dividends early this season, tallying seven sacks between just Garrett and Ogunjobi. During the game, the duo will surely get to Carr but for the Raiders to succeed they must run Lynch often and throw short to mitigate such an impressive pass rush. The Raiders to date have been a stretch the field type of team, but will need to embrace their roots and come out in a true West Coast style attack against an impressive pass rush and skilled coverage players in both the linebackers and defensive back groups - meaning more beast mode carries and less time for the Raiders to throw the lead away.
The Browns offense will be unleashing the first overall pick of the 2018 draft Baker Mayfield. He entered last week’s contest and led the Browns to their first victory since 2016 and was nothing short of electric. In just over two full quarters - with a little time before the half, he led a field goal drive- he finished with 17 completions on 73.9% passing for 201 yards and two touchdowns. The Raiders offense has been destroyed by the three quarterbacks the team has faced and Mayfield will be the next notch on it. It cannot be overstated enough, the Raiders needed Khalil Mack. The entire team combined has seven fewer quarterback hurries than Mack himself. The Raiders will look to take advantage of the Browns inconsistent offensive line to finally generate some negative plays for the opposing offense. The Browns offensive line is ranked 19th overall according to Pro Football Focus. Defensive Right End Bruce Irvin will look to take advantage of RT Chris Hubbard who has struggled out of the gate, grading 57.5 according to PFF. Mayfield will look to continue his connection with Jarvis Landry while Right Cornerback Gareon Conley will most likely be charged with guarding the elusive receiver. Conley is by far the best-rated Raiders defensive back, grading out at 63.2. Baker will have help on the ground as he progresses through the game through running back Carlos Hyde, who has 203 yards on 61 carries on the early season. While the Raiders best linebacker is 35-year-old Linebacker Derrick Johnson, Hyde is primed for a huge game. There is not much hope to stop this offense if the Raiders cannot take advantage of the inconsistency on the O-line. Although Conley is good, the rest of the Raiders will struggle to lock down Landry and the rest of the offense.
My prediction for this week comes down to a few key factors. Carr versus the pass rush combo of Garrett and Ogunjobi, as well as improving his fourth quarter decision making. The second key factor is limiting the Mayfield/Landry connection to keep the game from getting out of hand. The last key deciding factor in this game will be if Lynch can awaken Beast Mode and carry this team to the win.
Unfortunately, Mayfield is coming into this game with no intention of losing his first career start and the Raiders have no one on defense that can consistently stop him from doing whatever the hell he wants.