By Abraham Gutierrez

After getting the proverbial “monkey” off their backs, Jack Del Rio and the Oakland Raiders hit the road for a 2015 NFL Week 3 showdown with the Cleveland Browns. The (1-1) Raiders start the week tied for second place – with San Diego and Kansas City – in the AFC West behind the division-leading (2-0) Broncos, while the (1-1) Browns are knotted up with Pittsburgh in the No. 2 hole, trailing only the (2-0) Bengals who sit atop the AFC North.

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This week’s game marks the 24th time these intraconference franchises have crossed paths. The Silver and Black comes in leading the way in the overall head-to-head series, 13-10, but have dropped two in a row and six of their last eight contests against the Dawg Pound.

The last time these clubs met dates back to October of last season when the Browns prevailed over the Raiders by a final score of 23-13 in front of a sold-out Cleveland crowd. Opening kickoff for this battle of AFC foes is slated for Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET live from FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, on CBS-Sports.

Browns 2015 NFL Season Record

In his second year as head coach, Mike Pettine’s Browns started the 2015 NFL season with an uninspiring, 31-10 defeat at the hands of the New York Jets. Making matters worse was the fact that first-string quarterback Josh McCown suffered a concussion, and was forced to exit during the Browns’ first drive of the game.

The Sam Houston State product was clobbered in mid-air while making a dive for the endzone with less than two minutes to play in the opening stanza. McCown’s early exit left Cleveland fans in a state of disarray, and went into Week 2 with more questions than answers.

With controversial signal-caller Johnny Manziel getting the nod, the Browns made their home debut against the Tennessee Titans the following week. However, with the pressure squarely on his shoulders, “Johnny Football” made the best of his opportunity. The former Heisman Trophy winner completed 8 of his 15 pass attempts for 172 yards and two scores for a 133.9 QBR, and more importantly, led the Browns to a stunning 28-14 victory.

“It was vintage Manziel,” Pettine said after the game. “When a play breaks down that is what he brings.”

Browns On Offense

Following Manziel’s clutch performance, the Browns will have to pick who will start under center in this week’s showdown against with the surging Raiders. Assuming McCown will be cleared to play, Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo & Co. will have a tough decision to make in the coming days.

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“That’s a positive thing,” Pettine said on Monday. “Johnny’s made a lot of progress – in the right direction. There’s still a lot of things to get cleaned up, but we certainly feel like the arrow’s up.

“Josh is still in the protocol,” he added. “We’ll know in the next day or so whether he’ll be able to start practicing on Wednesday.”

Browns On Defense

Under the tutelage of Browns defensive coordinator, Jim O’Neil, the Browns went into the 2015 NFL season expected to feature the very best secondary in football.  However, after two weeks of play, Cleveland’s defense ranks sixth against the pass (199), 14th in points allowed (22.5), 20th in total yards per game (359), and dead-last in rushing yards allowed per game (160).

Browns Players To Watch

On the offensive side of the football, Cleveland’s player to watch is none other than Travis Benjamin, a fourth-year wide receiver out of the University of Miami. The 25-year-old from Belle Glade, Florida, enters Week 3 leading the team in receiving yards with 204 yards on 6 grabs, which is also good enough for fourth best in the NFL. This double-threat player is also tied with Patriots superstar (tight end) Rob Gronkowski with 4 touchdowns scored – three as a wideout and one as a punt returner.

Defensively, Del Rio and his staff will have to keep a close eye on a duo of Browns defenders: strong safety Donte Whitner and defensive end Armonty Bryant. The 10th-year man out of Ohio State leads the team in tackles (18 combined), while the Wyoming product, who enters his fourth NFL campaign, is currently first on the roster with 2½ sacks in his ledger.

2015 NFL Week 3: Raiders vs. Browns Odds

If NFL Week 3 oddsmakers are on their game, Cleveland will defend its home turf when Oakland comes to town, but it’s expected to be a highly contested affair. NFL point spreads illustrate that the Browns [-4] are betting favorites by a pair of safeties against the visiting Raiders [+4], while the OVER/UNDER is set at a combined total of 42 points.

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Abe Gutierrez’s (Twitter: @GutierrezAbe) passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to, and the CBS-Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS-Miami (Dolphins), CBS-LosAngeles (Chargers), CBS-BayArea (Raiders), CBS-NewYork (NY Jets), CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers),, and other online publications.