By Tony Grossi
Browns vs. Raiders … in Four Downs
First Down: Pineapple Express rolls into the Black Hole.
Sounds like a B-movie sequel. The unusual storm event emanating from the Hawaiian Islands was expected to have a big impact on the game. Torrential rains and high winds were predicted to slam the area in three distinct waves throughout the weekend. Saturday afternoon was overcast and dry, but the last wave is supposed to hit on Sunday morning. The grass field of O.co Coliseum may be a swamp by game’s start. The Oakland A’s dirt infield has been sodded over for two months, but it easily could be loosened in severe wet conditions. This ought to make for fun viewing, but you wouldn’t want to be there.
Second Down: Where’s the D in Oaklan(d)?
In their last four games, all losses, the Raiders have given up 42 points at home to Tampa Bay, 55 in Baltimore to the Ravens, 38 at home to New Orleans and 34 in Cincinnati to the Bengals. The total of 169 is the second-worst four-game stretch in the NFL since 1970. Hard to believe this is the same team that held the Pittsburgh Steelers to 54 yards rushing and forced 49 Ben Roethlisberger pass attempts in a 34-31 win in Week 3. DE Richard Seymour (injured), CB Pat Lee (waived) and LB Rolando McClain (suspended) are the only starters missing from that game.
Third Down: Who’s the baddest mudder?
If the game turns into a slopfest, it will be decided by the running games. In the last four games, Trent Richardson has rushed for 407 yards and two TDs and has another 99 yards on 13 receptions. He is averaging 30 touches over that period. His unspectacular rushing average of 3.83 in those games is actually higher than his season mark (3.6). Included in that stretch are games of 122 yards against San Diego and 85 against Pittsburgh. Both of those units were ranked No. 1 in the league at the time. The Raiders are expected to get back RB Darren McFadden after he missed three games with a high ankle sprain. However, they probably will ease him in and keep 255-pound converted fullback Marcel Reece as their primary back. In McFadden’s absence, Reece has had total yardage games of 104, 193 and 103 – 175 yards have been on 15 receptions.
Fourth Down: Josh Cribbs aching to play.
Cribbs injured his left shoulder so severely in the Pittsburgh game, he couldn’t lift his arm high enough to take off his uniform without help. He missed the first two days of practice, but rallied to take reps with the punt return unit on Friday. If the weather conditions are severe, the Browns would feel a lot more comfortable with Cribbs fielding punts than rookie Travis Benjamin. Ball security is an issue with Benjamin on a dry day, let alone on a wet and windy one.
|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
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