Las Vegas Raiders (6-7, 5-8 ATS) at Cleveland Browns (7-6, 5-8), 4:30 p.m., Saturday
Brolley’s Raiders Stats and Trends
The Raiders have scored more than 15 points just once in their last five games.
Las Vegas is 1-5 ATS in its last six games.
The Chiefs wiped out the Raiders 48-9 last week by dominating the turnover battle (5 to 0) and by averaging 1.7 more yards per play (6.5 to 4.8).
Derek Carr hasn’t thrown for multiple TDs in four straight games after throwing for two TDs in seven of his first nine games this season. He’s thrown for just one TD and he’s averaging 6.2 YPA in the last two games with Darren Waller (knee) out of the lineup. The Browns haven’t allowed an individual quarterback to reach 20+ FP since Kyler Murray did it in Week 6, but Ravens’ backup QB Tyler Huntley posted 17.3 FP in three quarters of action last week.
Darren Waller has a little less time to get ready for Week 15 with the Raiders playing on Saturday, which is less than ideal after he logged three DNPs for the second consecutive week since injuring his knee on Thanksgiving Day. Foster Moreau has flopped the last two weeks as Waller’s replacement, managing just 4/47 receiving on nine targets despite running the sixth-most routes (68) at the position in Weeks 13-14. If you’re looking for some glimmer of hope this week, the Raiders didn’t place Waller on the injured reserve after his injury in Week 12 so they at least thought he would have a chance to return by Week 15. The Browns just got ripped for 11/115/1 receiving by Mark Andrews last week.
Hunter Renfrow has been ridiculously active since Waller went down early on Thanksgiving Day. He’s posted 8+ catches, 100+ yards, and 19+ FP in three straight games, including a season-best 13/117/1 receiving against the Chiefs last week. The Browns are giving up the 13th-fewest catches per game (12.0) to WRs this season.
Josh Jacobs got stuffed for just 9/24 rushing and his fumble-six on the first play of the game set up Las Vegas’ blowout loss to the Chiefs. However, he reached 11.0 FP thanks to 5/46 receiving, which gives him 14/84 receiving over the last two games since Kenyan Drake (ankle, IR) left the lineup. Jalen Richard (COVID) could be back in the lineup this week to take some of his passing-down work away, but he’s now seen 66% of the snaps in four straight games. The Browns limited Devonta Freeman to 13/64 rushing and 5/8 receiving last week.
Brolley’s Browns Stats and Trends
The Browns have been ravaged by a COVID outbreak. HC Kevin Stefanski, QB Baker Mayfield, WR Jarvis Landry, TE Austin Hooper, OT Jedrick Wills, and OG Wyatt Teller headline the players who are likely to miss this week.
The Browns’ offense has scored 17 or fewer points in six of their last eight games, which made their 24-point showing against the Ravens last week look like a mini-outburst.
Cleveland has failed to cover in four straight games.
The Browns are 5-2 toward unders in their last seven games as a favorite
It’s looking like Nick Chubb will have a bigger role this week with Kareem Hunt unlikely to play after suffering an ankle injury last week, but his offensive line is in rough shape because of positive COVID tests. He played around 56% of the snaps in each of his three games with Hunt this season, averaging 17.3/109.3 rushing and 1.7/16.0 receiving per game with three touchdowns. D’Ernest Johnson saw around 33% of the snaps in those contests and posted a combined 18/64 scrimmage in those three contests. The Raiders allowed a combined four TDs and 49.0 FP to three Chiefs RBs last week.
Baker Mayfield has finished with fewer than 17 FP in seven straight games, and it looks like he’ll miss this week after testing positive for COVID. Case Keenum is the next man up, and he completed 21/33 passes for 199 yards and one TD in a spot start against the Broncos back in Week 7. He’ll be playing undermanned at receiver this week with Jarvis Landry and Austin Hooper landing on the COVID list. The Raiders are giving up the 10th-most FPG (19.1) to the position.
Donovan Peoples-Jones has been hampered by a groin injury for much of the last two months, but he looked rejuvenated coming out of their Week 13 bye. Operating as the team’s top perimeter WR, he posted a team-best 5/90 receiving on seven targets (22% share) and a 92% snap share in their victory over the Ravens in Week 14. It’s looking like he’ll be Baker’s top WR this week with Jarvis Landry landing on the COVID list. The Raiders limited Tyreek Hill to 4/76 receiving last week, and they’re giving up just 11.2 YPR to WRs this season.
Austin Hooper came through with his best fantasy performance of the season in Week 14, and it was no coincidence that David Njoku (COVID) and Harrison Bryant (ankle) were out of the lineup. Hoop finished with 5/30/1 receiving on seven targets for 14.0 FP against the Ravens, but it’s looking like he’s going to be the odd man out this week after landing on the COVID list. Both Njoku and Bryant have the chance to return to the lineup this week, and they could play bigger roles with Hooper and Landry unlikely to play. Las Vegas limited Travis Kelce to 3/27 receiving last week, but they’re still giving up the second-most FPG (16.8) to the position.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 28.3 (17th)
Plays per game: 60.3 (25th)
Pass: 67.4% (2nd) | Run: 32.6% (31st)
Pace: 27.3 (10th)
Plays per game: 59.0 (30th)
Pass: 58.1% (22nd) | Run: 41.9% (11th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
With all of the COVID issues on the Browns side, this total has fallen all week and is now down to 38.5 points as of Thursday morning. If it dips below 38.5, it will officially be the lowest total game this season in the NFL.
Beyond the Browns missing half of their offensive starters, the pace and play volume in this matchup was bad to begin with. Both of these offenses have cratered over the last eight weeks and are both generating bottom-8 levels of plays per game. Cleveland is averaging just 17.4 points per game over the last eight weeks while the Raiders have been held under 17 points five times in their last 6 games with the lone exception being their OT thriller against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. While this game is awful from a macro perspective, the good news is that our fantasy decisions are straight-forward. You know exactly who you’re starting here: Chubb, Renfrow, and Jacobs are the studs while Njoku and Peoples-Jones have life as fine injury/COVID fill-ins.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
It’s been four weeks since an opposing wideout found the end zone against Cleveland. They’ve held WR units to the 11th-fewest FPG this season (32.9), but the second-fewest the last four weeks (20.1). If we analyze this matchup from the Browns red-lighting the seventh-lowest rate of FPG to WRs out of the slot (52.7%), we have some compelling reasons to reconsider using Hunter Renfrow this week. However, that is an entirely misleading stat. Let’s look at the matchups where Cleveland has actually faced an opponent with a featured slot option:
Week 1: Tyreek Hill, 37.1 FPs
Week 2: Brandin Cooks, 22.8 FPs
Week 5: Keenan Allen, 13.5 FPs
Week 6: Christian Kirk, 18.5 FPs
Week 9: Tyler Boyd, 2.1 FPs
Week 10: Jakobi Meyers, 14.9 FPs
As you can see, sans limiting Boyd in Week 9, the Browns have permitted featured slots to average 21.4 FPG. And Troy Hill has been the most significant liability at defensive back. He’s handing out 1.34 YPCS (eighth-most among 36 qualified nickel CBs), 0.30 FP/CS (sixth-most), and a 125.7 TPR (the highest). However, the opportunity for Renfrow extends into the green light district with news that Hill has not only been added to the COVID list, he is considered week-to-week with a knee injury.
The most significant obstacle for Nick Chubb will be the state of the O-line in front of him. 90 NFL players are currently listed on the COVID list. And the Browns have been the hardest hit. Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Harrison Bryant, Stephen Carlson, Wyatt Teller, Jedrick Wills, Drew Forbes, John Hohnson III, Malik McDowell, Takkarist McKinley, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Anthony Walker, and even punter Jamie Gillan all need to submit two negative tests in order to take the field on Saturday. Not to mention Kareem Hunt (ankle).
We’re looking at ‘21 fourth-rounder James Hudson, 2019 UDFA Blake Hance, and 2018 UDFA Casey Dunn joining J.C. Tretter, and Joe Bitonio in a patchwork O-line if Teller, Wills, and Forbes are unable to clear the protocol. Even with the litany of potential absences, the Raiders have been a trainwreck on defense the last five weeks when opponents are averaging 34.2 PPG. And those issues point directly at its run defense. Let’s take a look:
125.3 rushing YPG (seventh-most)
2.93% 20-yard rush rate (sixth-highest)
1.08 TDs/game (eighth-most)
29.0 FPG (third-most)
16.0 pure rushing FPG (sixth-most)
13.0 pure receiving FPG (sixth-most)
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The question the Browns have, perhaps more severely than any team in the NFL right now, is if they’re going to be able to field a competitive team on a short week after placing a host of players on the COVID-19 list, including QB Baker Mayfield, three-fifths of their offensive line and the last of their remaining tight ends.
Oh, and HC Kevin Stefanski is on the list as well.
Browns placed on COVID-reserve list— Zac Jackson (@AkronJackson) December 14, 2021
Jedrick Wills Jr.
All are for positive tests, which makes this a very sticky situation for backup QB Case Keenum, who might not have his best receiver or his best blockers against this Raider pass rush. With Kareem Hunt (ankle) also likely out, expect a ton of work for Nick Chubb against a defense that gave up 4 TD to Chief RBs last week but, again, this will be behind a potentially severely limited offensive line.
But he’s expected to be full go, as Keenum so wisely points out.
#Browns Case Keenum on the opportunity to play with Nick Chubb: "Having a full Chubb back there is going to be really good."— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) December 15, 2021
The Browns are an impossible team to really do analysis of. So much depends on who will be available for Saturday. At least one of those players will be TE David Njoku, who missed last week with the illness. His role could be huge this week.
Here’s Graham from Start/Sit:
“If you need a streamer this week, Njoku is your best bet with the Browns going through a slew of COVID issues. Austin Hooper and Jarvis Landry are both in a race against time to get through the league’s protocols in time to play – they both have to clear by Friday. Not only are they both unlikely to play, Harrison Bryant is working his way back from an ankle injury and may be limited if he can suit up. Ironically, Njoku is now the last man left standing after missing last week with COVID. The good news is that this matchup is insanely easy, too. The Raiders have allowed the third-most YPG (64.6) to TEs on the year.”
Jacobs had an awful fumble on the first play from scrimmage against the Chiefs last week that set the tone for their matchup, but Vegas doesn’t really have a choice but to keep feeding one of the few players who has been productive on this roster, even though RB Jalen Richard is back from the COVID list.
It also doesn’t look great for TE Darren Waller (back, knee) to be back, and unfortunately Foster Moreau has flopped in two games without Waller in the lineup. Still, if you’re chasing a good matchup, the Browns did get creamed by Mark Andrews last week.
The guy who has really benefitted from Waller’s absence is Renfrow. In the four games that Waller has missed or left early, here are Renfrow’s lines: 7/58, 8/134, 9/102, and 13/117/1. Renfrow has led the team in targets in all four of those games and is averaging 10.3 targets/game without Waller.