Mayfield gets first start in Black Hole
The Cleveland Browns celebrated like they won their first Super Bowl last week. For the first time since Dec. 24, 2016, the Browns won a game as they defeated the New York Jets 21-17. Their opponent this week, the Oakland Raiders, weren't as successful in their last outing.
The Raiders have lost their first three games of this season in Jon Gruden's return to the team. After being up 10-7 at halftime against the Miami Dolphins last week, the Raiders ended up losing 28-20 at Hard Rock Stadium.
Sunday will be the 23rd meeting between the Browns and Raiders during the regular season with Oakland holding a 12-10 advantage.
Cleveland at Oakland
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept 30 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Oakland -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Derek Carr
Against the Dolphins last week, Carr had another up and down performance as he threw for 345 yards. The bad news is he tossed two interceptions and was sacked three times. Carr will be facing one of the best defenses in the NFL on Sunday. The Browns are giving up 338.9 yards per game, which is the 13th best in the NFL during the first three games of the season. Cleveland is also giving up 19.7 points per game, which 11th in the league.
2. Baker Mayfield
The biggest story from the Browns' victory over the Jets was the play of Mayfield. After Tyrod Taylor suffered a concussion, Mayfield came in and was sharp as he instantly gave the Browns energy offensively. Mayfield completed 17-of-23 passes for 201 yards as he finished with a passer rating of 100.1. Sunday will be Mayfield's first start on the road in the Black Hole, never an easy place to play for anyone, much less a rookie quarterback.
3. Raiders' defense
The Raiders defense gave up a number of big plays against the Dolphins last week. Not only were the Dolphins able to score on a 52-yard pass from Albert Wilson to Jakeem Grant, but Wilson was also able to score on a 74-yard touchdown jet sweep play. So far, the Raiders have missed Khalil Mack as they haven't been able to generate a pass rush. To force Mayfield to make mistakes, they will need to get pressure on the young quarterback.
The Browns have been in all three games they've played so far and arguably could be 3-0. But as good as Cleveland has played, it will get a challenge from Oakland's offense. The Raiders have a ton of weapons offensively, including Amari Cooper and Jared Cook, who will hope to have much better games this week. Also look for Oakland to get Marshawn Lynch more involved in their game plan to keep the pressure off Carr. This could be a game that comes down to the final whistle.
Prediction: Raiders 27, Browns 23
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
(Top photo by John Reid/Cleveland Browns, courtesy of www.clevelandbrowns.com)