Heading into Week 15, the Las Vegas Raiders (6-7) are in last place in the AFC West. The Raiders are three games behind the Kansas City Chiefs in the division with four games left.
On Saturday afternoon, NFL betting odds put the Raiders as a slight favorite for their road matchup against the Cleveland Browns (7-6).
Here’s a closer look at the Raiders’ chances to cover the spread this week.
Las Vegas Raiders (-1) at the Cleveland Browns
The Las Vegas Raiders have been struggling offensively. In their last three games, they averaged 20 points per contest. Cleveland’s offense hasn’t fared much better, averaging 15.7 points in their previous three games.
Cleveland has still managed to win two of their last three games because of their defense, which has only given up 16 points per game during that span. The Raiders, on the other hand, have given up 32.6 yards per game. In their past three games, Las Vegas has given up 48 points to the Chiefs and 33 to the Cowboys.
What could change this dynamic in favor of the Raiders? The eight Browns’ players who tested positive for COVID-19.
COVID-19 Spike Among Browns’ Players
Several critical players have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week. The list includes quarterback Baker Mayfield, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, tight end Austin Hooper, and Takkarist McKinley, a defensive end.
McKinley had a sack and forced a fumble last week in a 24-22 win against the Baltimore Ravens. Landry caught five passes for 41 yards and a touchdown. Hooper also caught a touchdown pass on five receptions for 30 yards. Mayfield had 190 yards and two touchdowns. Backup quarterback Case Keenum also tested positive on late Thursday, meaning Nick Mullens, who was added to the Browns’ active roster on Thursday, is now set to start against the Raiders.
Mullens started nine games in 2020 (and half of a game against the Jets) after Jimmy Garoppolo was injured. He threw for 2,437 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
With several offensive starters missing from this game, the matchup could come down to defense. So how do these two teams match up defensively?
Can the Raiders Stop Cleveland’s Running Game?
Cleveland has allowed 321.2 yards per game on average this season (4th in the NFL). They’ve given up 312.3 total yards per contest in their last three games.
Las Vegas has allowed 356.6 yards per game this season (20th in the league). They’ve given up 369 total yards per matchup in their previous three games.
The Raiders rank 26th at stopping the run and 13th at passing defense. In contrast, the Browns rank 11th for their rushing defense and 7th for their passing defense.
So, Cleveland’s defense is more balanced than the Raiders, especially against the run.
Without Mayfield, Keenum, Landry, and Hooper, the Browns will likely need to rely on their running game. They already run the ball 28.8 times per game, which is tenth in the league. While Browns’ running back, Kareem Hunt, may not play this Saturday due to a recent ankle injury, D’Ernest Johnson will back up Nick Chubb at home.
The Raiders allow 125.3 rushing yards per game, which is 26th in the NFL. So if the Browns’ running game goes well this week against a vulnerable Raiders defense, I believe that the Browns will still win this game, even with the COVID outbreak that’s decimated their roster. Mullens might be a third-string quarterback, but he started nine games last season and played well, averaging 262.8 yards per start.
Can the Raiders Win?
What do you think? Can the Las Vegas Raiders cover the spread on the road against the Cleveland Browns on Saturday?
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