No matter what your preseason opinions were of these teams, either the Oakland Raiders (1-1, 0-1 Away) or the Cleveland Browns (1-1, 1-0 Home) will be leaving FirstEnergy Stadium this weekend above .500 (1:00 PM Eastern).
Cleveland’s journeyman quarterback Josh McCown returns from a concussion to take on one of his many former teams. McCown played for the Raiders back in 2007, but kicker Sebastian Janikowski is the only player on Oakland who will remember McCown’s brief and ineffective tenure.
In fact, McCown hasn’t found much success anywhere he goes, so everyone is curious to see what he’ll do in (hopefully) his first full game as a starter in Cleveland. Since getting knocked out in the first quarter of Week 1, Johnny Manziel has guided the offense; but the young QB only really managed to get the ball to Travis Benjamin. (Benjamin’s 204 receiving yards is more than the rest of the team combined.)
The Browns brought in veterans Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline this offseason. Injuries have slowed Bowe a bit, but the Cleveland brass will want to see McCown get these two involved, particularly in the redzone: they’re the only receivers on the team over six feet.
Despite a strong preseason showing, the Raiders have had zero success with rushing the passer so far, tallying zero sacks. With time to operate in the pocket, McCown should be able to put up some points on the afternoon.
On the other side, Derek Carr and the Raider offense are coming in hot. Carr threw for 351 yards and three TDs against the Ravens after missing most of the opening game. While Michael Crabtree and rookie Amari Cooper both had big games for the black and silver, running back Latavius Murray should be the focal point this week. The Browns continue to boast one of the league’s worst defenses against the run, and keeping the ball on the ground will prevent Joe Haden, Tashaun Gipson, and an attacking secondary from making plays.
Oakland doesn’t have the world’s greatest run defense either, so both teams should be able to pound the ball and keep the game clock moving. Even if you don’t like Oakland to win straight up (which I do), in a sped up game, you have to like their chances of keeping it close.
Pick: Oakland +3.5.
(Photo Credit: Erik Drost (Originally posted to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/].)