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Raiders are in the Dog Days of the 2021 season

Irked by rescheduling, Vegas should project anger onto the Cleveland Browns Monday afternoon

Baltimore Ravens v Las Vegas Raiders
Raiders linebacker K.J. Wright was none too pleased with the NFL’s decision to move the team’s game against the Browns to Monday, Dec. 20.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders have legit gripes about the rescheduling of their clash with the Cleveland Browns to Monday afternoon. The NFL told both teams on Friday they would have until 2 p.m. (EST) to make transactions for the game which gives the Brownies ample time to clear and get back key players — like quarterback Baker Mayfield.

That’s an awesome courtesy for Cleveland, something Las Vegas wasn’t afforded last season when the Raiders didn’t have their five starting offensive linemen practice all week due to COVID-19 heading into a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That game didn’t see a postponement, but an advancement as it was moved from the Sunday night slot to the afternoon.

Social media, the NFL’s own state-run media and just about everywhere you looked, there was dissatisfaction with the league’s decision to move the game from Saturday to the Monday 2 p.m. (PST) slot.

“Health and safety is No. 1, but it’s tough,” Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN after the decision was made. “Maybe Cleveland should travel here. That would make it more fair.”

Then there were these two tweets by veterans Casey Hayward and K.J. Wright:

“We have made these schedule changes based on medical advice and after discussion with the NFLPA as we are seeing a new, highly transmissible form of the virus this week resulting in a substantial increase in cases across the league,” the NFL said in a press release.

Then there’s the additional outrage for the Raiders having a short week for its Week 16 contest against the Denver Broncos that following weekend. While that one is within the confines of Allegiant Stadium, Vegas is still short of the prep time it would’ve had if Saturday’s game came and went.

That all said though, the Raiders can gripe all they want, but they are paid and coached to win ball games. Circumstances or not, the team has “Just win, baby” adorned within Allegiant and its legacy and it’s something Vegas hasn’t done enough at 6-7.

The Raiders should do something productive with their anger and frustration and use it and project it on the Browns. Show some grit and fight. That too has been as elusive as getting back in the win column.

Injury Front

Raiders: No Darren Waller for this tilt. The tight end still has lingering pain in his knee. Las Vegas will be without tackling machine linebacker Denzel Perryman (ankle) and just-returned cornerback Trayvon Mullen (toe). That’s a trio of starters done in by ailments.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders will once again be without tight end Darren Waller, right, against the Browns this coming Monday night. Foster Moreau, left, will be the starting tight end for Las Vegas.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Browns: Kareem Hunt is a no-go for this clash. The running back is still bothered by an ankle ailment and will miss the contest. In addition, cornerback Greg Newsome will miss the game due to a concussion. Wide receiver Anthony Schwartz, originally out with a concussion, is listed as questionable with the added time to recover.

By The Numbers

Browns: Cleveland’s offense is ranked 19th in points scored (278) and 16th in yards gained (4,539). The Browns are the 26th in passing touchdowns scored (14) but are an impressive 5th in rushing TDs scored (17). Defensively, Cleveland owns the 14th ranked unit in points allowed (289) and 4th in yards yielded (4,176). The coverage unit allows the 6th least yards (2,795) and the 11th least rushing yards (1,381).

Raiders: Las Vegas’ offense is the 18th-ranked unit in points scored (283) and 10th in yards gained (4,842). The Raiders are 2nd in passing yards (3,742) but 18th in passing touchdowns (18). The team is ranked 29th in rushing yards (1,100) and 18th in rushing TDs (11). Defensively, Vegas is 31st in points allowed (360) and 19th in yards allowed (4,636). The coverage unit is ranked 12th in yards yielded (3,007) and 12th in passing TDs allowed (24). Defending the run has been an issue as the Raiders are 26th in yards allowed (1,629) and 23rd in TDs allowed (14).

Keep An Eye On

Browns: Running back Nick Chubb. The 25-year-old is nearing his third-straight 1,000-yard season with 926 yards on 167 carries (a robust 5.5 yards per carry average). While he’s been limited to 75 yards on 25 carries the last two games for Cleveland, expect Chubb to get plenty of opportunities against what’s been a soft Raiders run defense.

“I think they are always a team that is going to pride themselves on running the ball over 30 times a game,” Vegas defensive coordinator Gus Bradley during his mid-week media session. “That’s just who they are. … And that’s the way they like it, where they can really control the line of scrimmage and dominate in the run game and then the passing game off of it to keep you honest.”

Las Vegas Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs
Can Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (13) make it four-straight 100-yard receiving games with another solid performance this Monday?
Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Raiders: Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. The slot machine is the team’s leading receiver with 877 yards, five touchdowns on 86 catches. He’s shown tremendous synergy with quarterback Derek Carr and has ripped off three-straight 100-yard receiving games. He can get closer to the 1,000-yard mark or even eclipse it with a 123-yard performance Monday.

“He’s outstanding,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said of Renfrow. “When the ball goes to him, he catches it. He can run away from you. Quick, savvy, understands leverage, how to snap guys off, great hands.”

Weather or Not

The Monday afternoon kickoff is a far departure from the weather at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. Rain and mid-40s was the weather on Saturday, but Monday will be sunny with a high of 40 degrees, says the National Weather Service. Winds are slated to be 11 to 14 miles per hour.