Cleveland Browns vs. Oakland Raiders Pick
Cleveland Browns (1-1-1 SU, 3-0 ATS) vs. Oakland Raiders (0-3 SU, 1-2 ATS)
NFL Week 4
Date/Time: Sunday, September 30, 2018 at 4:05PM EDT
Where: Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California
By: Loot Levinson, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CLE +2.5/OAK -2.5
Over/Under Total: 45
The Cleveland Browns come into the Bay Area to take on the Oakland Raiders on Sunday in AFC action. I like the Raiders in this one. While it’s true that Cleveland appears to have come out of a big funk, losing just once this season so far while covering all their spreads, they remain a far-from-bankable commodity. Oakland has suffered en route to an 0-3 start after leading all those games at halftime. I see them getting the elusive win for Gruden this week at home, as well as the cover. Let’s talk about why the Raiders will win, while also taking a look at some potential pitfalls.
The Mayfield Factor
Let’s get this out of the way first. After seeing Tyrod Taylor struggle on Thursday Night Football against the Jets, the Browns went with rookie number-one pick Baker Mayfield at quarterback and the results were good. Mayfield was 17-for-23 with 201 yards and helped lead the Browns on a late TD drive to seal their first win in a long time. He will be behind center on Sunday and it does give the Browns a new dimension, especially when considering what they’ve had at the position in recent years.
On Thursday in the 21-17 win over the Jets, Mayfield made use of his weapons, who seemed to rise to the occasion. Carlos Hyde might not be a beast every week, but with nearly 100 yards and two TDs in the win, he continues to be one of the more underrated backs in the conference. Aerially, maybe Mayfield can get more out of guys like Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, rookie Antonio Calaway, and rising tight end David Njoku. And unlike a lot of young QBs in the league, Mayfield benefits from playing behind an above-average line.
The First Three Weeks Painted a Story
Watching these three teams the first three weeks, the impressions are quite divergent with both teams, even if the results are similar. Cleveland, coming off a historically-bad run, was able to tie the Steelers in week one, before giving the Saints all they could handle the next week, before beating the Jets last Thursday. They’ve covered the spread all three weeks and for the first time in a while, there is some positivity surrounding the Browns. Contrast that to a Raiders team that had some high hopes with Gruden coming back. Then after leading their first three games at halftime, they lost all those games. We see a team struggling to be clutch late in games—in many ways a lot like the team we saw last season.
The Power of Expectations
I think a lot of people will look at this game and measure each team against their expectations, as opposed to against each other. By an expectations-standard, the Browns have been far-better than the Raiders, but are they better than the Raiders overall? That’s a dicier proposition. And even against the Jets at home, it took some late drama to seal the win. I think some people need to pump their brakes when it comes to having an overly-rosy viewpoint on Cleveland. Just because they may have graduated from the ranks of laughingstock-status doesn’t mean they’re not a bad team.
Are the Raiders Better Than They’ve Looked?
At the end of the day, an 0-3 record speaks loudest. And collapsing late in each game also casts the Raiders in a bad light. Let’s take a harder look to see if we can find some answers. Their first game was a loss that now looks bad on paper to the Rams. But look at what the Rams have done since and let’s not forget that the Raiders were giving them a run for their money. In two subsequent road-games, they fell to Denver and Miami, losing by 1 point to the Broncos and to the Dolphins in a one-score game.
Now back at home, some urgency has to be resonating. Players are thinking this is a must-win game. If at 0-3 you can’t beat the Browns at home to save your season, it’s going to be hard to bounce back from that. Derek Carr has been really good with 936 yards on nearly 77% completions, but five picks have made those numbers moot. The aerial game is blossoming some with Jared Cook, Jordy Nelson, and Amari Cooper. The run-game isn’t very special with aging Marshawn Lynch. They also look for Martavis Bryant, Doug Martin, and others to start stepping up.
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Still, the Raiders need to show they can win close games. It’s strange because in their 12-4 season of 2016, that’s all they did—win close games by being clutch on both sides of the ball. Last season saw an end put to that and this season seems to be following suit. The loss of Khalil Mack has made an already-iffy defense that much more-exploitable. And maybe that has something to do with Oakland collapsing late in games.
Lay the Points on the Home Favorite
We don’t want to discount the power of a young team with a budding star behind center and how a team like that can rise quickly. I think some people are running with the story a bit too hard and that the Raiders are better than what their bottom-line results would indicate. I see Derek Carr unleashing a bit of fire in this game, with the Raiders actually able to hang on to the lead as they cross the finish with the win and the cover.
Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Oakland Raiders minus 2.5 points.