By Tony Grossi
What: Browns (3-8) vs. Oakland Raiders (3-8), 4:25 p.m., in O.co Coliseum, Oakland, CA.
TV: WOIO-TV 19 with Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker.
The set-up: A 24-17 defeat here a year ago – in the Raiders’ first home game after the passing of franchise czar Al Davis – set the Browns on a streak of 12 losses in a row on the road. It’s the longest active road losing streak. The Browns have not won two in a row in 31 games. The game is expected to be affected by torrential rains and high winds.
Series history: Raiders lead, 13-8, counting postseason.
Historical footnote: Let’s see … wet and windy day, Browns led by a rookie quarterback, seeking to break a road losing streak. Hey, it’s happened before. In 2005, rookie QB Charlie Frye left the then-McAfee Coliseum with his first NFL victory. The Browns prevailed, 9-7, on Phil Dawson’s 37-yard field goal as time expired. Dawson also made kicks from 44 and 24 yards. Other than the ending, the game was most remembered for a bizarre play-call by coordinator Maurice Carthon. Facing third-and-1 from their own 41 in the fourth quarter, the Browns inserted backup fullback Corey McIntyre and had Frye throw to him 25 yards downfield. It was intercepted. Frye’s winning drive was set up when defensive tackle Alvin McKinley scaled the heights to block a 46-yard field goal attempt by Sebastian Janikowski with 3:19 to play.
Raiders update: They are struggling to find their new identity in the wake of Davis’ passing. New GM Reggie McKenzie, a former Oakland Raiders player before apprenticing in player evaluation with the Green Bay Packers, was given the awesome task of rebuilding the franchise by Mark Davis, Al’s son. McKenzie inherited a salary cap mess and is in the first year of breaking it down before he can build it up. McKenzie’s task was made harder by the impulsive trade last year for QB Carson Palmer by former coach Hue Jackson, who gave up Oakland’s No. 1 in 2012 and second-round pick in 2013. The former Cincinnati Bengals passer turns 33 after Christmas. McKenzie’s first big move was a puzzler. He named former Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen coach. Allen, 40, is the youngest head coach in the NFL. Allen’s unfamiliar schemes and McKenzie’s roster-dumping has made for a difficult year. Injuries to RB Darren McFadden (who will be active Sunday) and DE Richard Seymour (who won’t) have taken away Allen’s best players. Others – like recently suspended LB Rolando McClain – haven’t adjusted very well to the culture shock.
Browns update: Will the epic win over Pittsburgh give coach Pat Shurmur the momentum he needs to rip off enough victories down the stretch to impress owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner? With five games left, Shurmur is running out of time. He hasn’t posted back-to-back wins since Games 2-3 last season. But with the defense getting healthier and the immediate schedule favorable, Shurmur can make a run at saving his job. The key, besides winning, is showing real evidence of improvement in the offense, particularly with QB Brandon Weeden. That may have to wait a week, however, as forecasts of torrential rains and high winds may force a gameplan heavy on RB Trent Richardson.
Injury report: Browns – DB Dimitri Patterson (high ankle), DB Ray Ventrone (calf) and S Usama Young (head) are out; WR-KR Josh Cribbs (shoulder, chest) and FS Eric Hagg (illness) are questionable. Raiders – DE Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring), DE Jack Crawford (toe) and LB Rolando McClain (suspension) are out; RB Mike Goodson (ankle) and RB Darren McFadden (high ankle) are questionable.
Our take: Sloppy weather conditions always level the playing field. In this case, it hurts the Browns. They are favorites for the first time all year and might have seen an offensive rejuvenation against Oakland’s historically bad defense on a dry day. If the weather turns out as bad as forecasted, turnovers will dictate the game.
Prediction: Browns, 16-12.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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