The Browns host the Raiders on Saturday afternoon.
I love Saturday NFL games. I’ll love the Browns hosting the Raiders on Saturday a lot more if Cleveland can get the win. Everyone ahead of them in the playoff picture lost on Saturday, except for the Chargers. The Ravens will likely be without Lamar Jackson for some time (hopefully), and if the Ravens lose again, the Browns are right there in the AFC North title hunt.
The Browns don’t control their own fate but things are looking good. The Ravens aren’t a great team when healthy and they’re missing a lot of key players with the Packers, Bengals, and Rams their next three games. The other two teams with the same 7-6 record as the Browns, that are ahead of them are the Colts, who have the Patriots and Cardinals, and the Bills, who likewise have the Patriots left as well. If the Browns win out and just one of those teams in the wild card spot falters, the Browns are in.
The Chargers are likely a lock, with the Raiders, Texans, and Broncos left on their list, so the Browns have to keep pace with the Ravens (for the AFC North as well as the playoffs), the Bills, and the Colts. To keep pace, the Browns have to take out the Raiders first.
These are five players the Browns need to step up against the Raiders
The Browns seem to have a healthy-ish Baker Mayfield finally for the first time in months. Conservative play calling aside in the second half, Mayfield had a good game against Baltimore. He needs another good game against the Raiders. The Raiders are circling the drain, but they’re still dangerous. Mayfield can’t afford to struggle in this game.
I didn’t have the highest of hopes for Jedrick Wills when he was drafted, I wanted Tristan Wirfs. Wrifs is a potential Hall of Famer and Wills is someone that I don’t think is getting a second deal. He can always improve, sure, look at Wyatt Teller; passed on Buffalo, all-pro in Cleveland. So sure, Wills can take the next step. Hopefully, he takes that next step against the Las Vegas Raiders.
It’s very hard to get Jarvis Landry the ball this season, and part of that is how slow the team around him is. If he were on a team that was faster, he’d probably look a lot more like his old self. Someone even did a deep dive on this at the end of last year, though I can’t seem to find it. I think Landry is going to be a relatively “average” player as the team is constructed right now due to the team’s lack of play speed (ranked 31st in the NFL). This is a big reason why the Browns don’t go over the top. Still, the team needs Landry to basically catch everything thrown to him, even if it’s only five or six yards downfield.
Greedy Wiliams has proven me wrong. After his rookie year, I thought he was a hindrance, one that should be moved on from, especially since the team needed to overhaul the secondary. They added Troy Hill and Greg Newsome to the corners and Williams returned in 2021 healthy. He also returned as a completely different player; a better player. For my money, I feel better with Williams on the top receiver as opposed to Denzel Ward, but either way, you’re set. They’ll need Williams (or Ward) to help keep Hunter Renfroe from hurting the Browns.
A running back is no good if the offensive line ahead of him is terrible. Unless you’re Trent Richardson, then you can blame it on the running back. That doesn’t mean the team can afford to have Chubb not play well. They absolutely need him to. He averaged just 2.88 yards per carry against the Ravens, who have the best run-stopping defense in the NFL for a reason. The Raiders are seventh…worst. If the Browns can’t run their usual game plan of rush-first offense against the Raiders, then maybe the Ravens game wasn’t an outlier. So Chubb (and his offensive line) need to step up.