Three keys to victory for the Browns
1) Brian Hoyer throws 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions
Call it the redemption game. Hoyer and most of the Browns fan base hopes his performance against Jacksonville was an anomaly in what has otherwise been a terrific season from the 29-year-old. It won't be easy to rebound against the Raiders and their 12th ranked pass defense, but Hoyer has shown he can carry the offense at FirstEnergy Stadium when the Browns need him most – re-watch the Saints game if you don't believe us. If Hoyer bounces back strong, it will give Cleveland its best chance of walking away with a 'W'.
2) Limit Darren McFadden to under 70 yards rushing
We've harped on it all week, but this fledgling aspect of the Browns defense is concerning. On Sunday they're facing one of the NFL's least explosive rushing attacks in Oakland. McFadden has been used seldomly by the Raiders – in part because they've trailed and needed to pass, and in part because McFadden just hasn't been effective. The Browns need to reassert how they've stopped the run on third-and-short, but make it a complete game effort.
3) Sack Derek Carr three times
This will be much harder than it seems. The Raiders' rookie quarterback has looked like a veteran in terms of his pocket presence and ability to escape oncoming blitzers. We also wrote that while Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard have been prevalent blitzers, the Browns defense need them to finish plays – especially early in the game. If Cleveland can rattle Carr on the road, the crowd could feed off the momentum ala the New Orleans and Pittsburgh games at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Three keys to victory for the Raiders
1) Complete two deep passes for more than 40 yards
Part of why analysts have been raving about Carr is that Oakland is letting him be a quarterback instead of limiting the playbook for the rookie. Against the Cardinals last week, Carr threw a gorgeous 55-yard bomb to wide receiver Brice Butler that led to an Oakland touchdown. Even with ball-hawking safety Tashaun Gipson and his four interceptions, expect the Raiders to test the Browns deep.
2) Win at the line of scrimmage on offense
The average weight of the Raiders' starting offensive line: 328.2 pounds. Almost the opposite of the Browns, the silver and black's strategy on the offensive line is strength and size over speed and athleticism. Part of the reason Carr is having success is that Oakland has been giving him time to throw. Beefy 340-pound free agent acquisition Donald Penn has been the team's anchor at left tackle. Kruger told ClevelandBrowns.com the Raiders might be the toughest offensive line Cleveland has faced all season.
3) Return man TJ Carrie makes a game changing play
The rookie cornerback from Ohio University has been a sparkplug for Oakland. Last week against the Raiders he took a return back to the house, bit it was called back for a block-in-the-back penalty. Carrie doesn't hesitate once he catches the ball and he has the elusive ability to break the game wide open.