The day of freedom has finally come!
And it shines brightly as the morning sun!
Not dimmed by ignorance or halted by steel,
It roams freely throughout every land and field!
- Joshua Aaron Guillory
It took longer than anyone thought it would, but the Cleveland Browns (1-1-1) have finally won a regular season NFL contest. The Baker Mayfield Era is fully here, and a precious element called “optimism” is palpable in Northeast Ohio. The Browns will get to build on this momentum on Sunday when they fly west to visit the Oakland Raiders (0-3).
Not only did the Browns beat the Jets last week, but they also beat the spread. On Sunday the Raiders will kick off as 2.5-point favorites. Considering that the home team generally defaults to three-point favorites it seems the winless Raiders are just barely receiving the benefit of the doubt. While the Browns are playing on a long week they do have the disadvantage of flying west for the game so the spread feels about right considering the circumstances.
The Raiders lead the all-time series 14-10 including a 2-0 mark in the postseason. Since returning in 1999, however, Cleveland leads 6-4. Oakland won the most recent matchup in 2015 in Cleveland. The Browns knocked off the Silver and Black 23-13 in 2014. Brian Hoyer threw a touchdown that afternoon and Billy Cundiff booted three field goals.
The Raiders made offseason headlines when the signed former head coach Jon Gruden to a jaw-dropping 10-year, $100 million contract. So far it looks like misplaced money. Oakland opened with a home loss to the Rams before losing at Denver and at Miami. The team’s offense ranks twenty-eighth (17.3 points/game) and defense ranks twenty-second (27 points/game). Quarterback Derek Carr is off to a rough start. The third-year slinger has completed 85-of-111 passes for 936 yards, two touchdowns, and five interceptions. Running back Marshawn Lynch has gained 170 yards on 48 attempts (3.5 yards/attempt) for three touchdowns. Before the season kicked off Gruden traded all-world defensive end Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears for a pair of first-round picks among other assets. Mack continued his dominance in the Windy City while Oakland fans can only scratch their heads and wonder how the defense will adapt without him.
Those of you who stayed up late on Thursday night were rewarded with the first Cleveland Browns win since 2016. The “W’ came in no small part thanks to rookie QB Baker Mayfield. The former Sooner came in to relive Tyrod Taylor and dazzled the home crowd for 17-of-23 passing, 201 yards, and a touchdown reception. So, what can Baker do for his second act? It’s hard to say. The good news is that Baker had a longer-than-normal week to gameplan for the Raiders while getting time with the 1’s. However, now that there is a little real NFL tape on him don’t be surprised if the Oakland defense mixes up the looks and tries to make the 23-year-old feel like a rookie.
The turnover train keeps on rolling by the lakefront. The Browns have forced eleven turnovers which lead the league. Perhaps equally importantly the Browns offense has only committed two turnovers. That combination of hungry defense and protective offense bodes well for the orange helmets if they can sustain it.
The Raiders’ days in the Bay are numbered, though it remains to be seen what that number is. The Raiders are going to move to Las Vegas pending the completion of their stadium. It’s likely then that this will be the Browns’ last work trip to Oakland. With only one chance left to leave O.Co Coliseum with a victory, it would be a particular point of pride to get a West Coast victory. With Bake,r all things are possible, even a winning streak.