Las Vegas Raiders vs. Cleveland Browns Pick Against the Spread
Las Vegas Raiders (6-7 SU, 5-8 ATS) vs. Cleveland Browns (7-6 SU, 5-8 ATS)
Week 15 NFL
Date/Time: Saturday, December 20, 2021 at 5:00 PM EST
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
TV: NFL NET
Point Spread: LV -3.5/CLE +3.5 (Find the best parlay odds >>>)
Over/Under Total: 38
The Las Vegas Raiders take on the Cleveland Browns on Saturday in week 15 AFC action from FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns are coming off a hard-fought 24-22 win over Baltimore, a win that took them to 7-6 and a game closer to the suddenly-beleaguered Ravens. The Raiders lost on Sunday in an ugly 48-9 showing against Kansas City—their fifth loss in six games. Now on the road in back-to-back weeks, what can one count on when getting behind the Silver and Black? Then again, with the Browns facing a litany of personnel issues, perhaps it evens the slate a bit.
Personnel Issues for Cleveland
It’s unfortunate for the Browns that on the heels of a big win and right when a little push could really pay off, they get hit with a bunch of covid-related issues. With Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum having tested positive, it looks like it will be Nick Mullens at starting QB. On the surface, that sounds completely unideal. And it is. But the young man was sometimes-serviceable as San Francisco’s backup the last few seasons. And maybe a home-spot against a slip-sliding Raiders team that is no position to talk about the problems of other teams can help camouflage the deficit the Browns now have personnel-wise.
Then again, it’s not just the QB position for the Browns. Almost two dozen players are on the list. On offense, they will be without Jarvis Landry, Anthony Schwartz, Austin Hooper, Kareem Hunt, and major pieces on the O-line. That leaves Mullens, Nick Chubb, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and whoever else can come up with something. And there isn’t much relief on the other side of the ball, where a handful of starters will be out amidst covid and other issues. So where does this leave us with Cleveland? In better form, at home, with a lot to play for, have these issues narrowed the gap? The oddsmakers would say yes and then some, with the troubled Raiders now rated as 3.5-point favorites on a super-low total of 38.
Can the Raiders Take Advantage?
When thinking of which teams would be best able to take advantage of an opponent’s depreciated state, the Raiders would not be a top candidate. One doesn’t want to be too judgmental, as a 6-7 record amidst all their different issues perhaps isn’t so horrible. But personnel issues of their own, a 1-5 patch in their last 6 games, and the culmination of the undue rigors of an especially hard season have rendered them a bit of a spent force heading into week 15.
While not nearly as battered in the personnel department, the Raiders will be without Darren Waller, his backup Foster Moreau might be out, and any number of defensive starters are out of action. That could make life a little easier on Mullens, who wasn’t just plucked off a practice squad of some other team, having spent all season on the Browns’ squad. We are starting to see massively-diminished returns on the Raiders’ defense. And someone like Nick Chubb might not need a lot of help this week to take it to this imminently-exploitable Raiders’ defense.
Still, there is Derek Carr and Hunter Renfrow, along with Joshua Jacobs, all of whom could go to work on a tattered Cleveland defense. There are still some pieces, however, namely on the Browns’ secondary, who can help curtail a Raiders’ aerial offense that often leaves its supporters stunned with how little they produce. And Renfrow is a great route-runner and a reliable receiver, but problematic as a team’s top offensive weapon, perhaps not having ever broken an NFL tackle. At any rate, this Raiders’ offense fails to inspire confidence in any context, even this one.
Bad Timing for Cleveland
Despite a good game from Mayfield last week, this is still a Cleveland team that was struggling for most of the season in an underwhelming year of football. This is a team that has been stricken with inconsistent QB play, injuries that disturbed their continuity, and sudden and inexplicable defensive collapses. They could hit a high ceiling and immediately plummet to unexplained depths in a week’s span. So you take a team like that, bludgeon them with innumerable positive covid tests, and the end result could very well be one of these bottom-end Cleveland performances we’ve seen multiple times this season.
And now they have a QB in Mullens behind center who follows suit, with some strong showings for Frisco, sandwiched by some not-so-good ones. Perhaps being three-deep in the QB rotation with Mullens isn’t so shabby, as you can do a lot worse than a guy who at least had 16 starts in the last several years. But taking his first snaps with a new team, being 5-11 as a starter, and having thrown almost as many picks as TDs doesn’t elicit a ton of optimism. But maybe with Chubb, he won’t be asked to do too much.
Take the Points on the Home Dog
Make no mistake, being more-intact counts for a lot and one shouldn’t be so surprised if the Browns team we see on Saturday manages to exceed negative suspicions that they will hit a wall this week. It’s just that prospects of the Raiders as a road-favorite against a team in a must-win spot seems equally or even more untenable. We’ll see what kind of push a compromised Cleveland O-line gets this week, but the Raiders’ defensive front is a battered unit, as well. In a game where there may be some weather elements, I think Chubb can help commandeer the Browns into a position to win. In what should be a close game, I’ll take the points and the Browns in this one.
Loot’s Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Cleveland Browns plus 3.5 points.