No matter what happens the rest of the way, the Oakland Raiders will finish without a winning record for a 10th consecutive season.
The way the Cleveland Browns have struggled on the road, it appears they’re headed toward a fifth straight losing season.
Oakland will try to avoid its first five-game losing streak in five seasons - and extend the Browns’ franchise-record 12-game road skid - on Sunday when Cleveland rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden could return from a concussion.
Expectations were high heading after the Raiders (3-8) finished one game shy of the playoffs in 2011, but those good feelings are gone as the team is riding its first four-game skid since 2008.
Oakland’s defense has been atrocious during this stretch, allowing 169 points - the second-most during a four-game span since the merger in 1970.
The Carson Palmer offense generated a season-low 218 yards in last Sunday’s 34-10 loss at Cincinnati, and the team has now lost three straight by 21 or more for the first time in franchise history.
“It’s been mind-blowing,” defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said. “I would have never, in my wildest dreams, thought we would be 3-8 right now.”
Another loss would send the Raiders to their first six-game skid since Oct. 14-Nov. 18, 2007.
“It feels like it’s been a lot longer than it actually has,” Palmer said. “But just good to see them in the huddle and see them get reps and see Darren smiling and hitting the hole hard, and same thing with Goody. Good for the team but also good for the offense to have those guys back.”
Rookie coach Dennis Allen said converted fullback Marcel Reece has “earned the right to carry the ball some” after rushing for 225 yards over the last three contests, but McFadden and Goodson would likely get the bulk of the carries if healthy.
“(McFadden is) explosive,” said Browns coach Pat Shurmur, whose team has allowed just 112 rushing yards over the last two games. “He’s one of those guys that can score when he has the ball in his hands. … When you have players on the field that can score touchdowns, that’s what you want. With him not being in there, of course that’s hurt them. With him being in there, it’s obviously going to help them.”
The Browns (3-8) would likely be in a better position to win back-to-back games for the first time since Sept. 18-25, 2011, if Weeden can go. The 29-year-old rookie suffered a concussion late in last Sunday’s 20-14 win over Pittsburgh, but he was cleared to practice on Wednesday.
“At this point, this early in the week he’s healthy, so he goes,” Shurmur said.
If that changes, former starter Colt McCoy who threw for 215 yards and two scores in a 24-17 loss at Oakland on Oct. 16, 2011, will try to guide the Browns to their first road win since beating Indianapolis on Sept. 18, 2011.
“We’ve got Colt and Colt is going to do whatever he does,” running back Trent Richardson said. “We’re going to make sure Colt knows we believe in him. But I’m pretty sure Weeden’s going to be back.”
The Raiders’ defense can’t be looking forward to seeing Richardson in the backfield after surrendering 728 rushing yards and nine scores since the team’s last victory.
Richardson has 407 rushing yards and two TDs over his last four games after finishing with 85 yards, including a go-ahead 15-yard score in the third quarter, last Sunday.
That run helped Cleveland improve to 2-5 in games decided by seven or fewer points.
“To finish a close game like that is big for us,” Richardson said.
It’s uncertain if there will be an Alabama reunion between Richardson and Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain after Allen held him out of practice Wednesday for a “team-related” issue.
Oakland could also be without defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring) for a fourth consecutive game.
The Raiders have won two straight at home over Cleveland by a total of nine points.