The Oakland Raiders will walk out into a cold and probably snowy Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sunday with the prospect of doing something that no Raider team has done since the Super Bowl.
Winning six games in a season.
It might not sound like a great achievement, but the road back has to start somewhere, and this week 16 matchup will give us a good idea of how far this team has come.
Although the Raiders have won three of the past five games, against such playoff caliber teams as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati, they have yet to win two in a row or show the consistency that comes with real progress.
This game is the ideal opportunity. Why? Because it comes on a cold and muddy field, with both teams having little threat in the passing game.
In other words, it is going to come down to guts and who wants it most.
This Raiders team has come up with some tough wins in the second half of the season and has continued fighting for coach Tom Cable and each other long after they were eliminated from playoff contention. With one more win, they break their five-year streak of 11 or more losses per season. With that win, Cable probably keeps his job.
So there might not seem a lot at stake for Oakland this Sunday, but in reality there is. The Browns are also having a late run, having won their last two games. They too are looking to build some momentum going into next year.
Both teams have strong running games, with the Raiders notching up 241 yards on the ground against a good Denver defense last week, while Cleveland running back Jerome Harrison rushed for 286 yards last week himself.
Defensively, they are both susceptible to the run, ranking 28th and 29th in the league respectively.
Charlie Frye is starting for Oakland—he managed all of 68 yards passing last game until he was knocked out in the third quarter—while the Browns' Derek Anderson is the only quarterback in the league with a worse rating that JaMarcus Russell.
Add the weather to that equation, and I don’t think there will be any records set for passing yardage.
So make no mistake, this will be a run first game, a smash mouth football type game.
Can the Raiders win at least six games in a season for the first time since 2002-03?
The question will be answered on Sunday in Cleveland: How badly does this Oakland Raiders team want it?