Will the Cleveland Browns be able to field a team? And will the Raiders' offense do, well, anything? Let's dive into this matchup in our Raiders-Browns picks.
Note: Both Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum have now been ruled out after still testing positive, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. However, safety John Johnson and guard Wyatt Teller were activated.
Before we get too deep in here, please pick up that buzzing phone. It's the Cleveland Browns, and they want you to start for them Monday. Dust off your Pop Warner shoulder pads.
December 2021 is starting to feel a whole lot like March 2020, and the Browns know that all too well. A COVID-19 outbreak is severely impacting the team, and that may continue while affecting the outcome of their Week 15 game against the Las Vegas Raiders, and every betting angle involved. It's already pushed the game back from Saturday to Monday night.
The most significant additions to the team's reserve/COVID-19 list came Wednesday when quarterback Baker Mayfield and head coach Kevin Stefanski tested positive. Mayfield is now among the over 20 Browns players on a list that includes fellow quarterback Case Keenum, nickel back Troy Hill, defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo, defensive tackle Malik McDowell, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, offensive tackle Jedrick Wills, and tight end Austin Hooper. Third-string passer Nick Mullens will start.
Mayfield said he feels "completely normal," a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. Still, it's highly likely the Browns will be without several key pieces, even after the game was moved. Will that lead to a low-scoring affair against the Raiders and their 18th-ranked offense?
Here are my picks and predictions for the Week 15 NFL matchup between the Raiders and Browns (odds via FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook; pick confidence is based on a one-to-five star scale).
Raiders vs. Browns Game Info
Date/Time: Monday, Dec. 20, 2021 at 5 p.m. ETTV: NFL NetworkLocation: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OHWeather: 39 degrees with a 20% chance of precipitation, and wind gusts reaching 22 mph
Raiders vs. Browns Odds Analysis
Predictably, there's been a dramatic movement for both the spread and total due to the Browns' issues, with more likely to come.
The Browns opened as six-point favorites in most sportsbooks. That’s since plummeted to their current position as home underdogs. BetMGM and DraftKings are offering the Browns at +3, while FanDuel sits at +2.5.
The total has fallen too, going from 43 to 41 or 41.5 depending on the sportsbook.
Raiders vs. Browns Picks
Browns +3 (-105 via DraftKings) ???Under 41.5 (-110 via FanDuel) ???
SEE ALSO: Week 15 Betting Odds, Lines, and Picks
Raiders vs. Browns Predictions
Browns +3 (+100)
It's understandable if your reaction to the Browns' situation is to run as far away from them as possible and then log a few more miles for good measure.
But there's a recipe for value here, and dots that could easily connect for a winning formula, even amid Cleveland's COVID-19 chaos.
The Browns' offensive identity is rooted in the run. That's true regardless of who's healthy, and the Raiders' 26th-ranked run defense that's giving up an average of 125.3 yards per game can be exploited.
Yes, it would sting if one or both of Teller and Wills aren't among Cleveland's starting offensive linemen. Running back Kareem Hunt is likely to miss this matchup too with an ankle issue. But Nick Chubb is powerful and slippery enough to rise above whatever blocking downgrades are in front of him, and earn his offense a handful of scoring opportunities. That's likely all the Browns will need with the Raiders' offense averaging only 21.8 points per game, and with possible blustery conditions along Lake Erie.
Chubb is churning out 5.5 yards per carry this season, and he's not far removed from two straight 130-plus yard rushing games. D'Ernest Johnson will be his backup if Hunt sits, and he's been dominant when called upon while logging 325 yards from scrimmage over two starts.
Despite an overflowing COVID-19 list, the Browns are still well-positioned to win this game their way.
Under 41.5 (-110)
And of course, their way doesn't involve high numbers on the scoreboard.
That's true during the best of times, as the Browns are averaging even fewer points per game than the Raiders (21.4). Cleveland has produced a mere 15.8 points per outing over its last eight contests.
The Browns always look to control the game on the ground. They rank fourth in the league with an average drive time of 3:03 and eighth with 6.2 plays per series. And now the club's potential COVID-19 issues come Monday will force the Browns to go further with that clock-grinding approach.
The Raiders won't have much of an answer in any regard. Their leaky run defense won't contain any Cleveland runner to stop the clock and earn possessions, and their pass rush is generating pressure on a modest 25% of opponents' dropbacks. Offensively, the Raiders are spiraling amid five losses over their last six games, a span when they've averaged just 17.2 points.
It might get real ugly on Monday. But watching this game from your favorite couch perch still beats any holiday shopping mission.
Raiders-Browns Picks made 12/15/2021 at 2:33 p.m. ET