In the NFL, they call these “trap games.”
The Oakland Raiders, coming off an emotional victory over the Houston Texans last Sunday – just a day after the death of owner Al Davis – are 3-2 and now face three straight teams it appears are ripe for plucking: the Cleveland Browns Sunday, the Chiefs and Broncos.
Cleveland is 2-2, but its victories have come over winless Indianapolis and Miami.
So on Sunday at O.co Coliseum, the Browns should be no match for Oakland, correct? Or could the Raiders be focused ahead – and on the celebrations of Davis that are scheduled Sunday – and fall into a Browns trap?
“Trap? This is no trap,” Raiders head coach Hue Jackson told the Oakland Tribune this week. “This is real. If we don’t play well, it’s a trap. We respect the situation, but we understand what’s at hand here.”
Raiders safety Mike Mitchell says Jackson has his team focused on Cleveland, and nothing but Cleveland.
“Good teams don’t look down the road, they don’t look in the past, they look to the next down,” he told the Tribune.
The Browns, coming off a bye week, have an offense that has been potent at times, with versatile running back Peyton Hillis and quarterback Colt McCoy, who threw for 350 yards (including 40 completions) in a win over Miami.
Though Oakland fared much better in stopping the Texans’ rushing game last week than in previous weeks, the Raiders still rank 31st in the league in total defense, allowing 438.6 yards per game.
Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur, meanwhile, looks at Oakland’s offense with quarterback Jason Campbell, the NFL’s leading rusher in Darren McFadden and a host of receivers and sees trouble.
Campbell has matured in his second season with Oakland, says Shurmur, noting it “is all coming together for him.”
His defensive coordinator, Dick Jauron, says the Raiders have “unique speed” that will put extra pressure on his unit.
Meanwhile, the Raiders plan a halftime ceremony for Davis, with video tributes throughout the game. Many former Raiders players are expected to attend. The home game is a sellout, the team’s third in a row.