When the Las Vegas Raiders and Cleveland Browns face off it will be an intriguing matchup heading into Week 8. Two teams looking to prove themselves will face off on Sunday to try and continue their strong start in 2020.
The Cleveland Browns have been a nice surprise under first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski. Cleveland is off to a 5-2 start after a 37-34 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns did not get off to the best start in this one, particularly Baker Mayfield, but they finished strong for the victory. Mayfield started 0-5 with an interception but from that point on, went 22-23 with five touchdowns.
The Raiders were handled by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week but hung around through three quarters. It was a 24-17 game heading into the fourth quarter but the Bucs outscored Vegas 21-3 over the final 15 minutes. Las Vegas is very inconsistent but they have a chance to pick up an impressive win in the conference here.
Two teams with storylines all over the field will meet in this one. Here are five major factors that could decide the outcome when the teams take the field.
5. Ground game
Both teams came into the season with elite rushing attacks. The Raiders hitch their wagons to Josh Jacobs while the Browns have a two-headed monster with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
The Browns were at the top of the league in rushing through four weeks but have taken a step back since Chubb got hurt. They are currently third in the league rushing for 157 yards per game. The Raiders are middle of the pack in terms of rushing with 113.5 yards per game. Jacobs is a dynamic player who can have a big game any week.
The rushing attack is something both teams use to control the ball and take pressure off their quarterback. This will be as important as ever since they will be sporting the same style of play. It will come down to which team wins the game in the trenches.
Do not turn the ball over and you will win the game. It is as simple as that. Both Derek Carr and Mayfield have struggled with turnovers in the past but are working to improve this season.
Both teams have been relatively equal in giving the ball away. The Browns have nine giveaways while the Raiders have eight. The biggest discrepancy is the turnover differential. Cleveland’s defense has been able to generate turnovers. They have a +5 differential and lead the league with 14 takeaways. It is the complete opposite in Las Vegas. The Raiders have a -5 differential because their defense has just three takeaways, which is tied for the fewest in football with the Dallas Cowboys.
Something will have to give in this one. If the Raiders’ defense can come up with a big play or two, that could completely swing the game. On the other side, Mayfield will have to take care of the ball against one of the worst defenses in the NFL at taking it away.
3. Browns skill positions
The Browns received devastating news following their Week 7 victory. Odell Beckham Jr. was forced to leave the game in the first quarter and and MRI later confirmed that the star wideout tore his ACL. He will miss the remainder of the season.
This means other players will have to step up. In Week 7, it was Rashard Higgins, Harrison Bryant and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Higgins led the team in receiving with six catches for 110 yards while Bryant added two touchdowns. Peoples-Jones finished with three catches but one was the game-winner on the Browns’ final drive of the game. Jarvis Landry is another name who will have to step up like the fans have been waiting for.
Replacing Beckham is not easy considering his star power and the attention that he requires from an opposing defense. It will be interesting to see who the Browns turn to as playmakers in this matchup.
2. Darren Waller
Waller is a player who can impact a game by himself. He broke out in 2019 with 90 catches for 1,145 yards and it having another big season. Waller has totaled 40 catches through 345 yards and has already matched his touchdown total from a season ago with three.
The Browns have struggled at stopping tight ends all season and now they will go up against one of the best in football. Waller has been effective underneath because of the threat of Henry Ruggs III going deep down the field. The Raiders have a nice offensive balance and it is up to Cleveland to figure out how to defend it.
This is a game where Waller can have one of his eight-catch, 100-yard performances if the Browns do not come up with a plan.
1. Quarterback play
The quarterback is the most important player on the field for a football team. We have two quarterbacks in this one in Carr and Mayfield who have been inconsistent throughout their careers.
Both quarterbacks have struggled with turnovers throughout the years but they are off to good starts. Mayfield has seven interceptions on the season and has thrown five in the last three games. Carr has taken care of the ball well this season. He has thrown 13 touchdowns with just two interceptions. Carr and Jon Gruden have been on the same page this season which leads to results on the field.
This game could easily come down to which quarterback has the best game. There is talent all over the field but the quarterbacks are in charge of putting it all together. This is a must-watch game mainly because of the play under center.