(Sports Network) - It's all about draft position, not playoff position when a
pair of 3-8 teams, the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns, square off
in the Bay Area this Sunday.
It's been a decade now since the Raiders finished with a winning record and
nothing has changed this time around under rookie head coach Dennis Allen.
Oakland, which will be kicking off a three-game homestand against a Browns
team aiming to avoid its franchise-record 13th straight road loss, has dropped
four straight overall after getting trounced in Carson Palmer's return to
Cincinnati last Sunday.
Palmer's successor in Cincy, Andy Dalton, threw three touchdown passes and
grossly outperformed the Southern Cal product in the Bengals' 34-10 win over
"Not a lot went right, from start to finish," Palmer said.
Palmer, a seven-year Bengal, was booed vehemently on Oakland's first offensive
possession. He finished 19-of-34 for 146 yards with a touchdown and an
interception for the Raiders, who have dropped four consecutive contests
for the first time since 2008 and have lost three straight by 21 or more
points for the first time in franchise history.
Palmer was a two-time Pro Bowler with Cincinnati after being the No. 1 overall
selection by the Bengals in 2003 after winning the Heisman at USC. He
eventually helped what was a moribund franchise to a pair of division titles
in 2005 and 2009.
"You can't block things like that out," Palmer said of the booing. "But I
prepared myself for that."
Cleveland, which is on its way to a fifth straight losing season, finally got
the best of AFC North rival Pittsburgh last Sunday when Steelers emergency
starter Charlie Batch threw three interceptions and Pittsburgh turned the
ball over eight times in all during an ugly 20-14 road loss to the Browns.
Rookie Trent Richardson had 112 yards from scrimmage and rushed for a go-ahead
touchdown in the third quarter to help the Browns record just their third
victory in 25 matchups with the Steelers.
The Cleveland defense turned out to be the biggest stars of that game,
recovering five fumbles -- including one each by four different
Pittsburgh running backs -- in addition to its three picks of Batch. Overall
the Browns scored 17 points off the Steelers' litany of errors.
Brandon Weeden added a touchdown pass while completing 17-of-26 throws for 158
yards with an interception before suffering a concussion for the Browns, who
are 3-3 since an 0-5 start to the season.
Weeden, who surpassed Tim Couch for the most passing yards (2,447) by a rookie
in club history last week, was cleared to practice Wednesday and is on target
to face the Raiders.
"You just have to be honest," Weeden said of the NFL's concussion protocol.
"There's several steps you've got to work out. There's a long laundry list of
things you've got to do, but the main thing is just be honest and tell them
what your symptoms are and tell them how you feel."
The Raiders lead their all-time series with the Browns 11-8, including a
24-17 win in Oakland last season.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Oakland's defense has fallen apart during its losing streak, allowing 169
points -- the second-most during a four-game span since the 1970 merger.
The Browns aren't all that explosive but Richardson, who leads all AFC rookies
with 755 rushing yards and has 407 of them over his past four games, seems to
be finding his NFL legs and could be a problem a Raiders D, which has allowed
a mind-numbing 728 rushing yards since last winning.
Conversely the Oakland offense mustered a season-low 218 yards in Cincinnati
last Sunday and needs more balance. That could come from the return of running
backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, who are both back practicing after
missing the prior three games with ankle sprains.
"It feels like it's been a lot longer than it actually has," Palmer said of
his injured backs. "(It's) just good to see them in the huddle and see them
get reps and see Darren smiling and hitting the hole hard, and same thing with
McFadden rushed for 91 yards with a TD in his last game versus the Browns and
the Raiders are 9-2 when the former Arkansas star hits the century mark.
"(McFadden is) explosive," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "He's one of those
guys that can score when he has the ball in his hands. With him not being in
there, of course that's hurt them. With him being in there, it's obviously
going to help them."
Oakland hasn't even been competitive over the past three weeks and Cleveland
certainly has a shot to win its first road game since a triumph in
Indianapolis back on Sept. 18, 2011.
That said, the Browns aren't exactly used to wins coming in bunches while
Palmer is 9-3 as a starter in his career against Cleveland. That and
McFadden's return should be enough to get the Raiders back in the black for
at least one week.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Raiders 24, Browns 21
The Sports Network