KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
PRE-GAME SHOW: Orange and Brown Countdown on SportsTalkNetwork.com at 1PM. Details...
TV: CBS, Don Criqui, Steve Beuerlein
SERIES: 15th meeting. The Raiders lead the series 9-5. The teams have met twice since the Browns returned in 1999 and split the pair with the Raiders winning 36-10 in Oakland in 2000 and the Browns winning 13-7 in Cleveland two years ago.
2005 RANKINGS: Browns: offense 23rd (18th rush, 20th pass); defense 16th (27th rush, 6th pass). Raiders: offense 19th (29th rush, 9th pass); defense 22nd (25th rush, 16th pass)
PREDICTION: Raiders 24-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: QB Kerry Collins is back in the driver's seat after Marques Tuiasosopo started last Sunday, but the real key for the Raiders' offense remains RB LaMont Jordan. With the protection issues Oakland has suffered from, Jordan needs to be effective in creating short-yardage situations and drawing the defense forward so Collins can attack downfield. The Browns don't have great corners, but the big plays to WRs Randy Moss and Jerry Porter haven't come in the abundance the Raiders had hoped for this season. Browns rookie QB Charlie Frye has shown poise in his first two starts, but the Raiders are still going to make him beat them by stacking the box against RB Reuben Droughns. The Raiders don't give up a lot of big plays on the ground, but they do give up yards consistently in small chunks.
FAST FACTS: Browns: TE Steve Heiden needs one reception to become the team's first tight end to catch 40 passes in a season since Ozzie Newsome caught 62 in 1985. ... WR Frisman Jackson's 18 receptions is more than the 16 he had in his first three seasons combined. Raiders: Defense has faced 71 passes since its last interception. ... Jordan needs 107 rushing yards to join Marcus Allen (1983-85) and Clem Daniels (1963) as the only Raiders to rush for at least 1,000 yards and have at least 500 receiving yards in a season.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
- Browns LT L.J. Shelton vs. Raiders DE Derrick Burgess.
Burgess leads the NFL with 13 sacks. Since Charlie Frye is a rookie and might need a split second more time to make a decision than a veteran might, Shelton will need one of his best games. He also has to beware of illegal-procedure penalties - a distinct possibility if the crowd in the Black Hole gets rowdy. Burgess is the shining light of Oakland's defense, with 13 sacks coming mostly through determination, speed and a bull rush that belies his 260 pounds. The task of Shelton, with an 85-pound advantage, will be to engage Burgess before Burgess gets around him. He will be entrusted as the blindside protector of a rookie quarterback against the NFL's sack leader.
- Browns MLB Andra Davis vs. Raiders RB LaMont Jordan.
After allowing 169 yards rushing to Rudi Johnson, the Browns expect to see a lot of Jordan on Sunday. Davis is the captain of the defense and has to direct his teammates to stay in their gaps. Johnson had wide holes to run through. If the Browns don't close that door, Jordan will have the same success.
- Browns ROLB Chaun Thompson vs. Raiders LT Barry Sims.
Go ahead and assume Cleveland will devise ways to get Thompson isolated on Sims in the same manner that the New York Jets did with OLB John Abraham. Thompson, 6-foot-2, 242 pounds, is no Abraham, but he's the sort of smallish, fast outside rusher who can give Sims problems. He has eight tackles for loss and three sacks. The sack-challenged Browns (16 in 13 games) will be looking for ways to pressure the quarterback.
BROWNS PERSONNEL NEWS
- QB Charlie Frye still had his right knee wrapped in a protective sleeve, but
he moved well in the early part of Thursday's practice. It would be a surprise
if Frye does not play Sunday in Oakland.
- TE Steve Heiden, who is having a career year, was limited in Thursday's
practice with a sprained ankle. Heiden missed the team portion of the practice,
putting his availability for Sunday in question.
- TE Aaron Shea missed two days of practice with a calf injury and may not be
able to play Sunday. If Shea and Steve Heiden (ankle) both miss the game - a
distinct possibility - the team would have to activate Paul Irons from the
- CB Antonio Perkins saw his rookie season end when he broke his hand in
Wednesday's practice. Perkins has been inactive most of the season.
- CB Leigh Bodden appears completely recovered from the blow to the head that left him woozy late in Sunday's loss to Cincinnati. Bodden's presence is important. He has played well, and the Browns need all their corners when facing Randy Moss and Jerry Porter.
RAIDERS PERSONNEL NEWS
- C/G Jake Grove missed practice Thursday for the second consecutive day with a
sore knee. He is listed as doubtful, and although there is an outside chance he
could start at center, the more likely scenario would have Grove backing up at
center and both guard spots.
- FB John Paul Foschi, inactive for the past three weeks, has practiced the past
two days and could be active against Cleveland.
- FB Zack Crockett, who has carried the ball only one time in the past four
games, could see action as a tailback in short yardage and to spell LaMont
Jordan if John Paul Foschi returns.
- WR Randy Moss has not missed a full practice for two weeks, but he's had only
a few beginning-to-end practice sessions since suffering rib, pelvis and groin
injures against San Diego on Oct. 16.
- QB Marques Tuiasosopo was back running the scout team Thursday, a day after losing his job as starting quarterback after one game. Tuiasosopo, who is under contract through 2006, said it was too early to determine if he would ask the club to release him from his contract so he could catch on with another team.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
The Browns got something good accomplished Thursday when linebacker Andra Davis agreed to a five-year contract extension.
Davis is one of the team's captains and leaders, and he made no secret of his desire to stay in Cleveland even though he could have been a free agent after this season.
Davis was the team's Player of the Year in 2003 (as voted by the local pro football writers) and this season has 169 tackles, one off his career high, according to the team.
NFL.com has Davis with 124 tackles, fourth highest among the league's linebackers.
By any measure, the numbers are impressive, and a reason why general manager Phil Savage called Davis one of the defense's key players.
"It's a blessing," Davis said of the new deal. "This extension means so much to me and my family because I want to finish my career as a Cleveland Brown."
Davis now is tied to the Browns through the 2010 season.
The only Oakland Raiders wide receiver leading the NFL in anything isn't Randy Moss.
Or Jerry Porter.
Of Gabriel's 26 receptions, 22 have been good for first downs, an 84.6 rate that leads the NFL, according to Stats, Inc.
"Is that right?" Gabriel said when told of his place atop the NFL. "I guess I don't pay enough attention to these things sometimes."
Not bad for a wide receiver who was the subject of off-season trade rumors and missed the first two games of the season while recovering from surgery to repair a dislocated finger.
Gabriel, 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, plays exclusively on the outside, while Moss and Porter alternate running routes from the slot.
With 26 receptions for 427 yards, Gabriel's 16.4-yard average ranks only behind the 16.8 of Moss on the Raiders. Last season, Gabriel had 33 receptions for 551 yards and a team-leading 16.7 yards per catch, getting his first extensive playing time.
A fifth-round draft pick, Gabriel was considered trade bait after the Raiders re-signed Jerry Porter and traded for Moss. The team figured to have 2004 find Ronald Curry operating out of the slot.
When Curry went down with his second Achilles' tendon tear in two years, Gabriel's playing time increased, but wants to do more, as evidenced by his request to be utilized on as many special teams as possible.
"Most everyone thinks they can contribute more, but once you're in a system like we have, with the people we have on this team, you've got to get in where you fit in," Gabriel said.
Gabriel's best fit has been beyond the first-down marker.
"Most of the time it does seem like I get a first down, and I hear people talk about it, but I really don't pay much attention," Gabriel said. "I'm just out there trying to play."