The Oakland Raiders need a win – that’s no secret – and they’ll get a chance to earn their first “W” back at home, Sunday afternoon when they take on the Cleveland Browns.
What was already an intriguing game – Hue Jackson is returning to Oakland, after all – got a little extra juice earlier this week, when Jackson announced that rookie Baker Mayfield would be the Browns starting quarterback for the Week 4 tilt at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
All eyes will be on the former Heisman Trophy winner, but the game won’t be won or lost based of his performance alone; here are three, key matchups to watch Sunday afternoon when the Raiders and Browns clash in Oakland.
Kolton Miller vs. Myles Garrett
Man, what a start to the season for Kolton Miller.
After facing one of the best defensive lines in football Week 1, then squaring off against Von Miller Week 2, the rookie left tackle will now tussle with Myles Garrett Sunday at the OACC.
Plain and simple, Garrett is a beast – he’s tied for the NFL lead in sacks (4) – and keeping him away from Derek Carr is going to be quite the challenge for the UCLA Bruin.
When Carr has had time to operate, he’s looked sharp running Jon Gruden’s offense in the early goings of 2018, but like I said just a moment ago, Myles Garrett is a different kind of guy, a dude who can single-handedly wreck what a team wants to do offensively.
After being put in the concussion protocol last week in Miami, it looks like Donald Penn will be able to go, but even so, a lot will be asked of Miller.
Give the rookie his due; he’s played really well this season, but he’s going to have quite the challenge in front of him with Garrett and the Browns D-line.
Carlos Hyde vs. Maurice Hurst, Jonathan Hankins, and Clinton McDonald
The Silver and Black threw down against a Top 10 rushing team last weekend at Hard Rock Stadium, and this week they’ll welcome the Cleveland Browns and they’re Top 5 rushing attack spearheaded by Carlos Hyde.
Entering Sunday’s action, the Browns currently average 134.3 yards per game – good for fifth in the league – and while Tyrod Taylor is technically the team’s second-leading rusher, make no mistake about it, this team can move the ball on the ground.
Baker Mayfield is the definition of a dual-threat quarterback, and while keeping him in the pocket will be key to success come Sunday, we all know that a solid run game is a quarterback’s best friend – especially one making his first career start.
The Raiders did really well limiting what the Dolphins wanted to do on the ground last week; let’s see if they can keep it up back at home.
The environment vs. Baker Mayfield
Like I said earlier, after a very impressive NFL debut last week against the New York Jets, the former No. 1 overall pick will make his first pro start Sunday afternoon at the OACC.
Is Mayfield an electric football player? No doubt, but let’s not forget that last year this man was scheming against the likes of Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, and the NFL is a very different beast.
That’s where you come in, Raider Nation.
Get loud Sunday afternoon, make Mayfield uncomfortable, especially on third down, and show him what a hostile road environment really looks like.