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The 6-7 Las Vegas Raiders still have a ghost of a chance to earn a wildcard playoff spot but that will be tough from the bottom of the AFC West, and despite QB Derek Carr’s respectable season he has not been able to overcome the on field and off the field drama his Raiders have faced all year, and his 9th ranked offense needs more help from its 20th ranked defense.
After fourteen weeks of football, it is still tough to say exactly who the Cleveland Browns are, since at times the 7-6 team looks like a playoff contender while on other occasions they too often look like ‘the same old Browns’ who stumble from self-inflicted wounds like turnovers and penalties, and who suffer from a constant stream of injuries including to QB Baker Mayfield.
These two AFC rivals have met each other 26 prior times (including 2 postseason games), with the Cleveland Browns winning 10 of those games and the Las Vegas Raiders winning 16 of the games.
One thing is for certain, if the Raiders want to stop the Cleveland Browns, they are going to have to figure out a way to neutralize or at least slow down their rushing attack starring Nick Chubb, D’Ernest Johnson, but most likely not Kareem Hunt (ankle) who is listed as doubtful.
And if Las Vegas can do that, they open the door to letting Baker Mayfield and his receivers have their way with the rest of the open field, and that is where the Raiders must have a huge game with a minimal amount of pass coverage.
It will be up to the Raiders’ secondary to keep Mayfield searching for an open option, something that he has been struggling to do while a full defensive front is coming down on him, with some of their losses due to him not being able to take advantage of the unbalanced defenses.
When it comes to their rushing attack, the Browns have things covered, right now the fourth most productive run team in the NFL averaging 144 yards on the ground per game, but defenses have figured this out and have loaded the box and kept them from being effective.
That leaves the field wide open for a passing attack, but Baker Mayfield has not been able to take advantage of that for multiple reasons, the main ones being a lack of a deep threat once Odell Beckham left the team plus a myriad of injuries that have kept him hobbling around.
Now the Browns must figure out how to game plan a more balanced attack that uses a healthier Mayfield’s strong and accurate arm to full advantage with his playmakers, while a new deep threat receiver, Donovan Peoples-Jones, begins to take defenses on some longer routes.
For a guy who might look to some like an accounting major, Raiders’ key receiver Hunter Renfrow is fast becoming an NFL star who is both dependable converting third downs and speedy after the catch, so much so that now in Vegas there is a thing called, “3rd and Renfrow.”
Renfrow is 25-years old and in his third NFL season, the 5’ 10” 185 pound Clemson alum fast and a precise route runner in the open field, right now with 86 catches for 877 yards and 5 touchdowns, so far his best NFL season to date.
Watch for Renfrow in key situations like on third and long and in the red zone, because QB Derek Carr sees Renfrow and a safety valve that helps him in times of trouble, and with the way things are going for the Raiders these days, they can use all the help they can get.
One of the best acquisitions the Browns made last offseason was grabbing defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney, off the free-agent market, the 6’ 5” 255 pound NFL veteran a former first round number one pick who has been turning heads since he entered the league in 2014.
What Clowney brings to the Browns is not a quarterback sacker – that job goes to the league’s number two sacker DE Myles Garrett – though this season Clowney has posted five sacks already with 15 quarterback hits and nine tackles for loss to his name.
The best role Clowney plays for Browns DC Joe Woods’ defense is a counterpunch for Garrett so that defenses can’t double and triple-team him so often, something that benefits both players and has Cleveland now ranked as the fourth best defense in the league.
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|Raiders vs Browns Information|
|What||Las Vegas Raiders vs Cleveland Browns|
|Where||FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, OH|
|When||Saturday, December 18, 2021; 4:30 PM ET|
|How to watch||NFL Network|
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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