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Posted by Oct - 15 - 2011 0 Comment

Pregame thoughts and musings as the Brownies head to the left coast to face the Raaaaaai-dahs!

  • There will be no shortage of emotion in Oakland as the Raiders play their first game at home since Al Davis’ passing. The Black Hole will be amped to a fever pitch, and the team is anxious to play in front of their home crowd, especially after their win in Houston last week. But could they hype themselves right out of the game? It’s been known to happen, one of the biggest challenges for Raiders HC Hue Jackson will be to manage his team’s emotions. I’ve seen teams get so hyped up before a game that by the second quarter they are sapped of energy and playing like the shell of the team they should be. How they manage themselves will say a lot about a young, up-and-coming Raider squad.
  • I think the Browns defensive ends can make as big of an impact as anyone on the defensive side for the Browns on Sunday. While Raider RB Darren McFadden can be a strong, powerful runner, he has exceptional speed to get outside. In order to keep him from getting to the perimeter with a head of steam, Jayme Mitchell and Jabaal Sheard need to get a solid and consistent push up field to force McFadden to get around them, altering his path to the edge and slowing his acceleration to the perimeter down. This will also give the linebackers an extra step or two to close to the ball carrier, and reduce the momentum McFadden would like to have. That would go a long way in preventing McFadden from getting big plays against a Browns defense that lacks speed at a lot of positions.
  • Jason Campbell has played some of his best football in his 7 year career since coming to Oakland. He’s completing around 60% of his passes, and has an average QBR of 84.4 in his 18 games as a Raider. He’s not an overwhelming talent at the QB position, but you can’t go to sleep on him with your defensive gameplan. He has young receivers, so pressure on the QB can lead to mistakes; missed hot reads on the pre-snap read, not following your QB when he’s flushed from the pocket, sitting down in coverage in places the QB can’t get the ball to. Campbell is very mobile and can run, so whatever pressure the Browns bring to him has to get there.
  • The Browns will give themselves a solid opportunity to win Sunday if they can create turnovers, and convert them to points. Getting an interception or two and perhaps knocking a couple footballs loose will shorten drives for the Raider offense, and potentially keep the ball from being in Darren McFadden’s hands all afternoon. The Browns themselves, however, must maintain ball security as well. The Raiders have 5 INTs as a team so far this year to the Browns 3, and 5 fumbles forced to the Browns 4. In contrast, Jason Campbell has tossed 4 INTs to Colt McCoy’s 3, while McFadden and Peyton Hillis have one fumble each this season.
  • While Peyton Hillis has been called the Vanilla Gorilla, his contract situation and subsequent Jersey Shore-esqe drama have become the 800 lbs. gorilla in Berea. All of that must be put aside by all parties involved and he must be a significant part of the gameplan this week. Coach Pat Shurmur has said that Hillis will get the bulk of the carries Sunday. Oakland’s 23rd ranked rushing defense would be a nice target for Hillis’ frustrations, while their 30th ranked pass defense would give Colt McCoy opportunities to make plays as the running game succeeds.
  • One of the changes made over the bye was the ascension up the depth chart of rookie WR Greg Little. He will now start in the role of the X receiver, essentially making him the #1 WR. Given Mo Massaquoi’s nature to be injury-prone and never really take off with the opportunity to be the team’s #1, this was a foregone conclusion to take place at some point in the season. Little has proven to have a respectable set of hands, and has made some heady decisions after the catch, be it picking up some YAC or getting out of bounds when time was at a premium. Case in point was the Miami game, where he did not have a catch going into the final drive, yet had 3 key catches, picking up first downs, gaining extra yards, all while being cognizant to get out of bounds and save time outs. While there were two big WRs taken in the first round of this past draft, Little has shown some of the same ability his higher drafted counterparts have. If he continues to improve at the pace he’s shown so far, he would become the WR steal of the 2011 draft.
  • One of my criticisms of Pat Shurmur to this point in the season is the mixed bag of player formations and packages that he has run out there in the first four games. That couldn’t have been easy for Colt McCoy, as you can’t expect him to develop timing and consistency with every single one of those guys in such a short time, especially given the lack of OTAs this past off-season. In listening to some of Coach Shurmur’s pressers over the bye, it sounds like that was something he addressed. Expect to see the same set of guys in multiple formations, rather than a different set of players in each different package. Part of the problem surely came from Shurmur and his staff not truly knowing what they had in some guys, and game time was often the only opportunity they had to really see what they did have. But at this point, and with the advantage of an early bye, they could now see what they have to work with, and what is working at all. This should get guys like Evan Moore and Hillis more involved consistently, and allow McCoy to develop a better rapport with his supporting cast. Provided it wasn’t all lip service.
  • This game is almost a pick ’em in my mind. After winning in Houston last week against a formidable Texans lineup, the Raiders are 3-2 and playng solid, if not really good football. Undoubtedly the passing of Davis last Saturday gave the team a boost in motivation to go down to Houston and play well, and have almost been overstated with regard this the game with Browns as they return home. They have the NFL’s leading rusher in McFadden right now, and are playing with confidence. However the Raider defense is arguably the league’s worst, and huring this week with MLB Rolando McClain questionable after an ankle sprain against the Texans. Newly acquired LB Aaron Curry, a bust traded to Oakland from Seattle last week, is expected to start. If you are starting another team’s cast-offs less than a week after they show up, things are not going well for your defense. Then again, recycling other team’s garbage has been the Raider way (and given them a fair amount of success) as long as Al Davis has owned the team. With the Browns, they are nothing if not inconsistent. The have yet to play 4 quarters of solid football in the same game, and often decide the game just isn’t worth the effort until well into the 2nd quarter. Doing that this weekend would only feed the monster in Oakland, as an emotionally charged crowd will look to make The Black Hole too ominous a venue for the Browns to find any success in, and certainly an unlikely place to forge any sort of comeback should they fall behind. So its incumbent upon the Browns to come out and set the tone early, and play well on their first few drives while putting points on the board. Are they capable? Yes. But the Browns have not played up to their potential as individuals and as a team at any point this season, even in their two wins. So until I see it, I can’t expect it. I’ll be thrilled to be wrong, but I can’t count on something I have not witnessed from this team. So with a heavy heart, I’m calling for a Raider win Sunday against a Browns team that isn’t as bad as they’ve looked at times, but have yet to prove they are worthy of being confident in. Raiders 27, Browns 20.
Categories: Cleveland Browns

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