NFL Preview - Oakland (0-6) at Cleveland (3-3) (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) - It's hard to find good things to say about the Oakland Raiders.
The Silver and Black have gone 0-for-6 in their quest for a win so far in 2014, have dropped 12 in a row since a Week 11 win last season and have won just two games in 18 tries on the road since 2012.
But if that's supposed to impact the optimism of interim coach Tony Sparano as the team heads into Cleveland for a Week 8 matchup with the inconsistent Browns, it hasn't.
Oakland enters the weekend after its latest missed opportunity for a streak- ender, a 24-13 home loss to Arizona in which it was outgained by 145 yards and saw rookie quarterback Derek Carr held to less than 200 for the third time in six games.
"Nobody is handed the trophy at the end of six weeks," Sparano said. "We have 10 games to go right now. I've seen teams get into this tournament with eight wins, with nine wins, whatever the case is. That isn't really our concern right now. Our concern is getting one win and winning the next game. That really has to be our focus, because if we look at the picture down the road right now, the parade might pass us by."
Carr is 29th among NFL quarterbacks with an 80.9 passer rating, and the team as a whole joins him at or near the bottom of the barrel in statistics like points scored (92, 32nd), yards per game (282.7, 32nd), red-zone drives (10, 32nd), first downs (94, 32nd), time of possession (25:01, 32nd) and average points allowed (26.3, 25th).
The Raiders are also last in the league in rushing yards per week (69.3), but that may be a wash against a Cleveland team that's surrendering 155.5 on the ground, worst in the league.
The intermittent signs of progress prompted Oakland defensive end Benson Mayowa to deliver something of a guarantee for victory, though it fell a bit short of Namath-level aplomb.
"We're building," he said. "Every week we come in and we're building. We're getting close. We just have to get a W, and that's what we're going to do."
As for the Browns, a little prosperity didn't do them much good.
Cleveland's unlikely 3-2 start put it center stage on the Sunday morning pre- game shows last week, but the team responded with a 24-6 loss to a Jacksonville team that hadn't won since Dec. 5, 2013.
"We got our butts kicked," quarterback Brian Hoyer said. "They handed it to us."
In fact, the degree to which it was handed - along with Hoyer's inglorious stat line of 16-for-41, 215 yards and two turnovers - prompted some Cleveland fans to begin calling for coach Mike Pettine to pull the plug on Hoyer in favor of preseason media sensation Johnny Manziel.
Hoyer had posted a 99.5 passer rating prior to last week's nosedive, and it was the effort through the first five weeks that caused Pettine to stand his ground and announce Hoyer as the starter for this week, though he conceded a moment of two of indecision had existed.
"Nothing's changed," Pettine said. "Each week when the offensive staff gets together, and I'll jump in with them, too, they put the (game) plan together. It's what gives us the best chance to win. So if the situation this week maybe calls for (Manziel) to play some then that will be the case. But we're not going to hit the panic button after one loss. While we know that the quarterback position needed to be more productive, it was more symptomatic of the entire offense."
Indeed, it wasn't just Hoyer alone.
The Browns took the field for the first time without injured Pro Bowl center Alex Mack and saw the running game plunge to just 69 yards on 30 carries. Additionally, Cleveland converted just four of 17 third downs and didn't score in the second half of a game that was 7-6 at intermission.
"This one is going in a box and getting buried in the backyard," Pettine said after the loss. "We need to move on from it quickly. At the same time, we're not going to ignore it. It's not going to be one of those where we gloss over it and move on quickly because of the disappointment. There's a lot to learn from it and it's critical for us to leave here today knowing what went wrong, knowing how to fix it and moving forward to the next one."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Something's Gotta Give
The presence of familiar names like Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield hasn't translated to any success for the Raiders in the run game. McFadden has averaged 13 carries per week in the last three games, while Jones-Drew has just 18 attempts in the four games he's played.
Either Oakland will find its run stride, or the Browns will leap out of the league's run defense cellar.
A New Wrinkle
The Raiders are 12th in the league in pass defense, but the Cardinals were successful against them by going against the norm and using screen passes to attack the linebackers rather than the defensive secondary.
Cleveland's top three runners - Ben Tate, Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell - have just nine catches between them, but it might not hurt Pettine and Co. to incorporate that approach.
These teams are probably a little bit closer than the three-game disparity in their records might indicate.
The Browns took a step backward last week, while the Raiders have been good enough to compete - albeit not win - in more than half of their defeats. It'll be incumbent on Pettine and his staff to get Cleveland back to the emotional high it found after Week 6, and it figures to happen at home.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Browns 24, Raiders 17