The Oakland Raiders did not look like a 0-6 team last week against the Arizona Cardinals. But they'll travel to FirstEnergy Stadium this Sunday having lost their last 12 games, dating back to last season.
For nearly the entire fourth quarter, the Raiders only trailed 21-13, and were within striking distance of tying the game more than once. Under interim head coach Tony Sparano, it's quite visible to tell the Raiders are fighting much harder on the field, and making less mistakes than they did under former head coach Dennis Allen, who was fired after a Week 4 loss to the Dolphins.
Video: Rookie guard says Sunday is a chance for the Browns to redeem themselves
Oakland Raiders notes on film
Derek Carr might be the real deal
Oakland is not spoon-feeding its rookie quarterback. They are taking chances with Carr's big arm. On 5-6 occasions they let him launch the ball 40 yards down the field and he connected once to wide receiver Brice Butler for 55 yards that set up an eventual touchdown. Carr can make throws on the run and can rifle the football to his target. He already has eight touchdown passes.
Carr was pressured frequently by Arizona's stingy defense, but he was only sacked once. For a rookie quarterback, Carr has an advanced feel for a collapsing pocket and so far into his career has shown he doesn't make many questionable throws. In his last two games, Carr only has one interception and only five total in six starts.
What it means for the Browns: Forcing Carr into errant throws will be much more difficult than it was last week against Blake Bortles.
Oakland doesn't run the football much
The Raiders have abandoned their running game in every single contest. The last three weeks, starting running back Darren McFadden has seen an average of 13 carries. McFadden is only producing 46.5 yards per game on the ground and the 27-year-old doesn't seem to have the same burst he once had. Against the Cardinals, McFadden was a non-factor and the Raiders have barely used free agent addition Maurice Jones-Drew.
What it means for the Browns: Cleveland ranks 32nd in run defense and has an opportunity to get right against McFadden and the Raiders.
Raiders also use a committee approach at wide receiver
James Jones is Oakland's most productive receiver (30 catches, 363 yards, three touchdowns) but Carr can spread the rock around to a committee of targets. Andre Holmes is a 6-foot-4 lanky speedster, who can be an effective deep target. And Mychael Rivera is and up-and-coming, athletic tight end who could give the Browns problems in space.
*What it means for the Browns: *Expect Joe Haden to lock-up Jones and the rest of the secondary to be tested deep by Holmes and Butler.
Arizona found an offensive game plan that worked against Oakland
Defensively the Raiders are led by 38-year-old Charles Woodson and the rest of the secondary – who rank 12th in the NFL against the pass. Arizona also saw this as Oakland's strong suit, so instead of attacking the defensive backfield, the Cardinals threw an array of screen passes to running backs Andre Ellington, who led Arizona with six catches for 72 yards. Oakland's linebackers can be exposed if the right game plan is concocted.
*What it means for the Browns: *Cleveland isn't known for throwing screen passes but don't be surprised if these type of plays are mixed in this week – especially for Isaiah Crowell.
Rookie Khalil Mack is living up to the hype
Rookie linebacker Khalil Mack has been everything the Raiders could've dreamt of. Mack's 11 tackles against Arizona were a career-high and his energy is contagious. The Raiders line Mack up everywhere on defense, and have used him more in space than as a pure pass rusher. On the season, Mack has registered 37 tackles.
What it means for the Browns: Mack is a playmaker and it needs to be noted by Brian Hoyer where he is at all times.