With all the discussion about last week’s emotional win in Houston it is easy to forget that statistically, last week was the Raiders worse offensive game. Last week, the Raiders finished with 278 offensive yards marking the first time since week 1 the team did not reach 300 yards. The Raiders offense were out-gaineed by nearly 200 yards, by far the largest amount so far this season. The most the Raiders had been out-gained this season was by 56 in Week 3 when Mark Sanchez and the Jets were playing catch-up and attempted 44 passes.
To improve this week, it starts up front with the big hogs. The Raiders offensive line last gave up 3 sacks in week 5 after only allowing two total in the other four games this season. The Browns have 11 sacks in four games and a pass rush that could pose problems to the Raiders offensive line. Darren McFadden totaled only 51 rushing yards in week 5 and 75 in week 4. The opposition has done a good job shrinking the running lanes the past two weeks. Regardless of the defensive front or scheme the Raiders offensive line needs to find a way to get McFadden cleanly to the second level and beyond.
The Browns will likely load the box and make Jason Campbell prove he can be consistently accurate. In order to help open up the running lanes, Jason Campbell must make the Browns secondary respect the pass. Campbell can do this by connecting with tight end Kevin Boss and other receivers on intermediate passing routes. Campbell will be facing a defense that is giving up less than 200 passing yards a game so look for McFadden to break out his mini funk with 125 yards or more this week and look for Kevin Boss to make an impact in the red zone.
The Browns are led by Colt McCoy and running back Peyton Hillis, but Hillis has been maligned and McCoy has shouldered the offensive burden impressively. In four games, McCoy has passed for 984 yards and 6 touchdowns. More would be talked about McCoy’s campaign if it was not for Hillis’ off the field problems. Given that Hillis’ agent did not advise him to sit out this game; the Raiders should expect a healthy dosage of him. His physical running style will go along with a well-distributed passing game which will feature team leading receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and tight end Benjamin Watson. This Sunday, Cleveland rookie Greg Little will get his first career start at wide receiver.
So far this season, the Browns offense has not been impressive. Victories in the NFL cannot be taken for granted and opponents cannot be underestimated, but the Browns’ victories came over Indianapolis and Miami. Cal product Alex Mack is the Browns starting center and is recovering from an appendectomy. This is a golden opportunity for the Raiders defensive line to flex their muscle and dominate once again. After one practice Aaron Curry will get the start, look for him to be around the ball on running downs and off the field in passing situations. Look for multiple sacks from the defensive line and an interception or two in the secondary.
Darren McFadden vs. D’Qwell Johnson
D’Qwell Johnson has been plagued with injuries during his career but he is now staying healthy and is having the best season of his career. He has registered double digits in tackles in three out if the Browns four games this season. Johnson also leads all middle linebackers in sacks and was voted AFC defensive player of the month in September. For the Raiders to have a big game, McFadden needs to have early success. After two unusually subpar games, McFadden needs to get back on track. The key will be how many times McFadden gets past the first wave of Cleveland defenders.
Raiders’ Offensive line vs. Browns’ front 7
In all aspects the Raiders offensive line had their worst game last week and it showed. They gave up 3 sacks and the Raiders only gained 94 rushing yards. The Browns are coming off a bye but they will be without pass rushing Marcus Bernard. The Browns front 7 has a good combination of size, experience and speed. They are led on the line by 300 pounder Ahtyba Rubin and in the linebacker corps by D’Qwell Johnson. The Browns have had early contributions from massive rookie lineman Phil Taylor and his defensive end peer Jabaal Sheard. This matchup will set the Raiders offensive tempo for much of the game.
Jason Campbell vs. Browns’ Secondary
Campbell did barely enough to lead his team to victory last week. The Browns’ defense will likely come out loading the box, begging Campbell to make accurate throws. Campbell needs to make the Browns’ respect the pass. For McFadden to have success, Campbell needs to distribute the ball well, take advantage of open receivers and make accurate passes. The Browns secondary has an impressive mixture of experience and youth with 2nd year safety T.J Ward leading the way. Pass defense is a team effort but so far the Browns’ secondary is holding teams under 200 passing yards a game. Joe Haden, the Browns’ stud corner back is coming off a knee injury and will likely be a game time decision, his presence could be missed.
Kevin Boss vs. Browns’ coverage
Three out of the four games the Browns have played a tight end has caught a touchdown. Two out of those three games, the tight end was the leading receiver for the other team. Kevin Boss started the season injured and has been outshined by the Raiders wide receivers to this point. Boss has yet to reach the end zone so look for Boss to have his coming out party this Sunday against a defense that struggles defending the tight end.
Colt McCoy vs Chuch Bresnahan
Colt McCoy deserves his own light. With Hillis’ shenanigans, McCoy really has really stepped up and led this team. After a record-setting collegiate career, McCoy probably still has a chip on his shoulder after falling into the third round. Watch for McCoy to distribute the ball well and work short routes that test the Raiders open field tackling. Last week, Bresnahan used blitzes to take his linebackers out of coverage and it worked. Look for Bresnahan to dial-up the blitz again. Bresnahan will probably use a mixture of blitz packages including safety and zone blitzes to put added pressure on the Browns’ young quarterback.
Peyton Hillis vs. Raiders Defensive Line
When the Raiders defensive line plays inspired and they lead the team to victory. Tommy Kelly, Richard Seymour and Lamarr Houston all had great games last week. If the defensive line was not busy holding Arian Foster to 68 yards rushing, they were getting after Schaub and deflecting passes. When the defensive line plays like this, they are nearly unstoppable. Peyton Hillis so far has been a disappointment this year. His play has taken back seat to his contract and him being sick. Look for Hillis to come out motivated after the bye week.
Greg Little vs. DeMarcus Van Dyke
Greg Little is making his first career start at wide receiver and has been an early season favorite of Colt McCoy’s. Little, who’s getting the start over Cribbs, has caught a respectful 14 balls for 131 yards this season. Even though he has a low average he has caught more balls in four games than any Raiders receiver has in five, outside Hayward-Bey. DVD had a great first start for the Raiders only giving up one catch. If DVD gets the start, expect Little on his side and for him to get consistently challenged.
Benjamin Watson/Evan Moore vs. Raiders Linebackers/Safeties
The best friend for any young quarterback is a reliable tight end. Watson has been McCoy’s favorite target, leading the team in receptions with 16. Moore has 7 catches in four games and is currently tied with Watson in touchdown catches with 2. Even though last week the Raiders defense was stout again the run, they had some blown coverages that resulted in touchdowns. The Texans tight ends finished with 12 catches for 201 yards last week. The Raiders linebackers did not play the pass well. They often respond late and were suckered by play action. The Raiders safeties have had communication problems as well as problems tackling. The Raiders need to clamp down on these tight ends or Watson and Moore will have a party of their own.
Aaron Curry vs Aaron Curry
Just after a couple of being traded Aaron Curry is making his first in the silver and black. Curry will be asked to play weak side linebacker, a position that he has never played. Curry will see runs his way and be responsible for cut backs on runs to the strong side. Curry will be tested early and often by the Browns. It would make sense for the Raiders to take Curry out on obvious passing downs. The key will be how he plays against play action and other pass plays. Curry get one chance to make a good first impression on his new team and to the Raider Nation and this is it.