Browns-Raiders Preview

Was last week an aberration or sign of things to come?

So long, 6-2.

Remember when we drooled over the Browns three-game stretch that featured only one team with a win?

After losing on the road last week to the previously winless Jacksonville Jaguars, the Browns return to Cleveland for the first of two consecutive games against the 0-6 Oakland Raiders and the 1-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

So, 5-3 sounds good now, right?

Six games into the season and have we arrived at a must win. It shouldn’t be this way, but that is what happens living in a rapid-react society. One game means so much.

The Browns had a bad game in Jacksonville. There is no way around it. Offense, defense and special teams all failed miserably.

Guess what? Teams have good games and teams bad games. One good game (a win over the Steelers) doesn’t mean it’s time to talk playoffs nor does a bad game (a loss to the winless Jaguars) mean it’s time to talk Johnny Football.

Now, the Browns are quite accustom to bad games, but it was surprising to see one considering the team’s performance in the first five.

Yet the Browns return home where they have played well this season, save for the inability to put away the Baltimore Ravens last month. For the sake of sanity, for the sake of being able to use social media these next two weeks, the Browns need to win these two games.

I don’t want to see “Johnny Manziel” show up on any Facebook, Twitter timeline or blog headline. Let’s ride this thing out. That being said, the Browns need to win Sunday.

It begins with the offensive and defense line. Both were atrocious last week against the Jaguars. The Browns couldn’t run the ball, which set up a multitude of third and longs, which meant punter Spencer Lanning was quite busy.

The Browns — for better or worse or until Week 11 — have shown the key to their entire offense is the ability to run the ball. The more drop backs from Brian Hoyer the worse off the Browns’ offense will be.

Meanwhile on defense, the Browns continue to get gashed on the ground. In six games, opponents have combined for 933 yards and seven touchdowns on 186 carries, or 5.0 yards per carry. We’ve seen some poor run defense since 1999 but so far this year has topped that list.

Like the offensive line, the defensive line has some key injuries that are testing depth and creating weaknesses.

Overall, Oakland’s rushing attack is averaging four yards per carry, but its top two backs — Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew — both average less than four yards per carry.

Finally, like Jacksonville, Oakland employs a rookie quarterback in Derek Carr. Last week, Blake Bortles threw three interceptions, but the Browns failed to capitalize.

There is no sugar coating this. The Browns play two horrible teams in as many weeks. Coming off a poorly played game, we will find out what this team and coaching staff are made of. Two wins are not only desired but also expected. A loss to Oakland and things could head south quickly for first-year coach Mike Pettine and his team, but a win puts the Browns above .500 with another winnable game Nov. 2.

Then again, if the Browns do lose to Oakland, at least we have LeBron’s return to look forward to Oct. 30. Maybe that will quiet down the hyperbole and Manziel fans for another week.

Hopefully it doesn’t come to that and we can enjoy both. To steal a phrase from this week’s opponent, “Just win baby.”


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