Neither the Oakland Raiders nor the Cleveland Browns are expected by many NFL experts to make the playoffs this year, but it’s almost a guarantee that one of the teams will win two of their first three games to start the season. Both teams followed up Week 1 losses with a victory in Week 2, and they’ll go head-to-head in Cleveland in Week 3 on Sunday afternoon.
Oddsmakers have made Cleveland a 3.5-favorite at home, according to vegasinsider.com, meaning they would be a slight favorite if the two teams were to meet on a neutral field. The betting line has moved from 4.5 points earlier in the week.
Las Vegas casinos list the over/under at 42.5 points. Only one game on the Week 3 schedule has a smaller over/under. Cleveland has totaled exactly 41 and 42 points in their two contests.
The Browns selected Johnny Manziel with their first-round pick last season, and the second-year quarterback led them to their first win of 2015 in Week 2. But with 36-year-old Josh McCown now recovered from his Week 1 concussion, head coach Mike Pettine has chosen to go with the veteran against Oakland.
Manziel had three turnovers in relief of McCown against the New York Jets, but he had the best game of his career the following week. The former Heisman Trophy winner posted a 133.9 passer rating against the Tennessee Titans, throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions. He had a 42.0 passer rating in his limited action last season.
McCown only threw eight passes before he got hurt in the opener, but his career numbers aren’t an encouraging sign for his potential this season. His best year came in 2013 when he posted a 109.0 passer rating with the Chicago Bears in eight games. Last season, he threw 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Browns Relying On Big Plays
Cleveland’s offense hasn’t been consistent through two games, ranking 30th in total yards. But the Browns have been able to get in the end zone as a result of a few big plays.
Travis Benjamin has been the NFL’s most explosive player through two weeks, scoring four of the Browns’ five touchdowns from at least 50 yards out. Manziel has connected with Benjamin on three passes for scores, and the wide receiver also returned a punt for 78 yards. Manziel has only completed 53.8 percent of his passes, but his especially long completions give him nearly a 100.0 passer rating for the season.
Oakland’s defense has not been good this year, allowing 33 points in each game. The Baltimore Ravens had a big day against the Raiders a week after they put up the fewest yards of any team. Oakland ranks last in total yards allowed, and last season they surrendered more points than any other team.
Improving Raiders Offense
While the Raiders allowed a lot of points to a team in Week 2 that struggled offensively in the opener, they scored 37 points against Baltimore, who was one of the NFL’s top defensive teams in Week 1. If Oakland can keep their young offensive players healthy, they should be able to put up points in 2015.
Not having to catch passes from Matt McGloin in Week 2, Amari Cooper showed why he was the top wide receiver taken in the draft, totaling 109 yards and a touchdown. Michael Crabtree had his best performance in nearly three years, as it’s looking more and more like the Raiders might have their best quarterback in a decade. Carr has a 94.9 passer rating in two games, tossing three touchdown passes last week.
Oakland’s running game ranks 13th in the NFL after finishing last in 2014. Latavius Murray has yet to have a breakout game, totaling 109 yards on 26 carries.
Even though Oakland’s defense has been shaky, Cleveland could be in trouble if they are waiting to score on a few more big plays, especially since Manziel is on the bench. The Raiders should be able to score against the Browns’ defense, and Murray could have his best game of the year against the No.32 ranked run defense.
Oakland over Cleveland, 27-20