My free NFL winner for Sunday is the Las Vegas Raiders plus the points against the Cleveland Browns.
Something about this Raiders' resiliency, and the fact the last time they went on the road they dominated the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs with a stifling defense in the secon half, has me thinking the Cleveland Browns are in trouble.
There's a good reason the sharps took the half point off the original 3-point spread and it's now sitting at 2', and it's because Las Vegas is better than its 3-3 record and the Browns aren’t as good as their 5-2 mark.
In case you didn't know, the Raiders have played the toughest schedule thus far, based on their opponents and how they were playing at the time of the games. The combined DVOA of Las Vegas’ first six opponents is the best in the league for anybody’s slate.
And from this point forward, the Raiders have a schedule that could translate into a winning season and berth into the extended playoff format. With 10 games left, they need to win seven of those conceivably. I think they can win eight.
It starts with the Browns, who - and I can't believe this - have a -21 point differential. What team is three games above .500 and has been outscored by three touchdowns? Now they play the Raiders' defense that was in the game with Tampa Bay late last week, and allowed garbage-time touchdowns. Don't be fooled by the final. Cleveland won't have as easy a time. And make note, Johnathan Abram will be back this week after missing the Tampa Bay game last week as a "high risk" contact.
On other side of the ball, quarterback Derek Carr will undoubtedly be able to move the ball against Cleveland's stop unit, as the offensive line has been back in action this week in practice. That was a glaring problem last week, when the linemen missed all week due to a positive test to Trent Brown. They were cleared on gameday, but with no preparation.
Carr has faced the Browns three times in his career and has topped 300 yards passing in all of them. Cleveland is the only team Carr has thrown for 300 or more yards against at least three times. And when you factor in his 133.6 rating vs. the blitz ranks second best among qualifiers, trailing only Justin Herbert's 137.4.
And remember, teams like the Bengals (twice), Football Team, Cowboys and Colts have scored at least 20 points against Cleveland.
Las Vegas is going to dominate the Browns, just as we saw Baltimore and Pittsburgh do so against them.