Regular Season Week 16
Oakland Raiders at Cleveland Browns
Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, OH
When: 10:00 a.m. PDT
2009 Records: Raiders (5-9) Browns (3-11)
History: The Raiders lead the all-time series 10-7
Line: Browns by 3 points
Dwags By Nature, Raiders vs Browns Preview here.
With the Raiders taking on the Browns today in Cleveland, this game, at this time of the year, marks a time of trends to be maintained or broken. Last year at this time, the Raiders hadn't won a game in the month of December since 2002. Then they went out and upset the high flying Texans then followed that with a season ending win against the Bucs in Tampa. For the Raiders this season, their Achilles Heal has been their inability to take the momentum from a win the previous week and win again the next week to go back-to-back. This "trend", has been especially perplexing when you consider that many of their followup games have been against inferior opponents that they should not be losing to. For the 5th time this season we are at that point again with the Raiders, who following last Sunday's exhilarating upset win against the Broncos 20-19, the Raiders now take on the Browns, (who are trying to win 3 straight for the first time in three years) in their attempt to break the trend of this season and finally go back-to-back.
This week saw the Browns hire Mike Holmgren as president, which probably means Mangini should start packing his bags. Meanwhile, should Cable manage to win at least one of these final two games, then he will have likely secured his job for another year. The public face of the players indicate that they want Cable to return:
"We are fighting very hard for him," running back Darren McFadden said. "Everyone on the team loves Coach Cable and at this point in time I don't think it is a concern if he is coming back or not, we are just trying to finish the season out strong."
For the Raiders, they will be going against their old friend and former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who has proven that his "skills and results" are the same wherever he coaches. With QB Charlie Frye returning as the Raiders starter and after another full week of practice of knowing this, he should have his timing with his receivers better adjusted so that the Raiders could do some damage against the Rob Ryan defense. Frye will be returning home to the team that drafted him in 2005 but gave up on him as a starter before week 2 of the 2006 season when they traded him to the Seahawks. Frye would enjoy nothing better then to show the Browns that they made a mistake by giving up on him.
Everyone has been able to pass on the Browns this season and as typical of the Rob Ryan defense, tight ends and running backs are doing most of the damage to the Browns' pass defense. This week has the potential to bring much of the same, with the return of Zach Miller from injury. Miller is a clutch go-to guy no matter who the QB is and McFadden is an improving receiving option -- either split out wide or out of the backfield -- with home run potential. The Browns' heavier 3-4 linebackers will have their hands full in coverage and if the Raiders utilize McFadden properly, he could be in for a big day. With Justin Fargas still dinged up, the Raiders will be rolling with Michael Bush (thankfully), who has found his stride after three weeks on the bench. With Jammal Charles of KC tearing up the Browns defense last week to the tune of 154 yards, there is no reason to think that the Bush/McFadden ticket can't do a similar gashing.
For the Browns, Brady Quinn has returned to the IR with a foot injury which means the return of Derrick Anderson as the starting QB. Anderson, the man who replaced Frye as the starter in 2006, has been a colossal failure since he got his big contract extension. With bad weather expected today in Cleveland, Anderson would be wise to stay with their strength, the running game. Browns 4th year running back, Jerome Harrison rushed for 286 yards while breaking Jim Brown's franchise single-game rushing record last week. Harrison is a very good weapon out of the backfield and could be a stable safety valve option who could also help slow down Oakland's pass rush. The best way to attack the Raiders' run defense is up the middle, but the Raiders did hold Denver to only 80 yards rushing last week, so it would be quite impressive if the Raiders could manage that kind of effort again. The Raiders will have to account for arguably the Browns' best player Josh Cribbs wherever he is on the field. Although he doesn't have a typical role in the Browns' offense, Cribbs is Cleveland's best playmaker. This is true on offense and especially as a returner. He can play a traditional wide receiver role, but where he is at his best is in taking direct snaps behind center where he can use his dazzling running ability. A college quarterback, Cribbs also throws the ball very well, so expect some trickery today as well. On special teams, Cribbs has been spectacular, but if history is an indication, don't expect Lechler or Janikowski to avoid Cribbs.
Alright Raider Nation, is this the week the Raiders break the trends and finally take their momentum of a previous weeks victory and carry it to the next week wit a win to go back-to-back? What are your thoughts and keys to this 2nd to last game of the 2009 season?