RAIDERS RAVENS – The Oakland Raiders are on the road against the 3-0 Baltimore Ravens. There are two important “buts” to point out. The Ravens are undefeated but the combined record of their opponents is 1-8. Baltimore’s defense is number 2 in total yards allowed (254 per game) and 4th in scoring (14.7 per game) but to date they have faced only subpar teams. While the Bills’ offense is 15th in scoring, they are 30th in total yards. Similarly, the Cleveland Browns are 16th in total yards but tied for 26th in scoring. The Jacksonville Jaguars are 26th in both categories.
OFFENSE – Joe Flacco is one of the better QBs in the NFL but not a guy that can carry a team lacking offensive talent week in and week out. For the year, Flacco is completing 64% of his passes with a lopsided 3 TDs and 4 picks. His QBR is 77.4. He seldom runs anymore.
It doesn’t help that the offensive line is in disarray. Rookie LT Ronnie Stanley struggled last week against Jacksonville and sat out Wednesday’s practice. He was reportedly seen in a walking boot. James Hurst is the backup and started 13 games last year at LT. LG Alex Lewis is going through the NFL’s concussion protocol. The line has given up 6 sacks and 19 QB hits. The Ravens have trouble running the ball, particularly on the left side. If they need sure yardage, they’re going up the middle.
Starting RB Justin Forsett has carried the ball 31 times at an average clip of 3.2 yards. Terrance West is averaging 3.6 yards on 33 carries. If the Ravens are throwing to a RB, it’s more than likely to Justin Forsett. Baltimore’s only rushing TD came courtesy of their QB.
The receiving corps boasts Steve Smith and Mike Wallace but their better years are behind them. The leading receiver is TE Dennis Pitta with 18 receptions for 183 yards. Smith is second with 16 catches for 170 yards. Wallace has caught only 10 passes but has 3 TDs and 7 first downs. No doubt Smith will try to get inside the head of CB Sean Smith, who is trying to rebuild his confidence after poor play in weeks 1 & 2.
DEFENSE – The Baltimore Ravens will have to win this game on defense. Despite the “buts” we mentioned previously, they are still a very good defense. Furthermore, OLB Elvis Dumervil is expected to see his first action of the year after going down with an injury during preseason. Dumervil has 32.5 sacks over the previous three seasons.
The Linebackers are the nucleus of the Ravens 3-4 defense. ILB Zach Orr has one interception and leads the team with 24 tackles while ILB CJ Mosley has 14 total tackles and 2 interceptions. OLB Terrell Suggs has 3 sacks on the year. Former Charger Eric Weddle is their smart, hard hitting SS. The CBs, led by 6 year man Shareece Wright, are solid against the run and pass, and have depth. DE Timmy Jernigan is a disruptive force and will be a key matchup for the Raiders. Jernigan has 3 sacks and 3 passes defensed.
WR Michael Crabtree has been a reliable target for Derek Carr. He leads the Raiders with 19 receptions and has converted 79% of those into first downs. WR Amari Cooper is averaging 18 yards on 15 receptions but has not yet scored a TD. Carr has completed 67% of his passes and has a QBR of 99.1. He’s thrown 5 TDs and only 1 interception. Dropped passes plagued the Raiders last week.
Despite injuries to their starting and backup RT, the Raiders offensive line has played well but will be sorely tested against the Ravens front 7. It is cliché, but the Oakland Raiders must avoid predictable situations on 2nd and 3rd downs. Despite their high powered attack, the Raiders are converting only 39% of their third downs, ranking the Silver and Black 19th in the NFL. The RBs have been explosive, averaging 5.9 yards per carry and 148 per game. They are also tied for first with 5 runs of 20+ yards. Far too often, however, they are held to two yards or less.
As terrible as the Raiders have been on defense, there is a bright spot. Despite ranking last in the NFL for total yards allowed (476) and yards per play (7.4), Raider opponents have converted only 33% of their third downs. That’s tied for 6th best. The defense and special teams must put the offense in position to score without having to drive the length of the field. We know Punter Marquette King and crew will do their part.
There’s not much more to say about the defense that hasn’t already been said. Above all they cannot allow Baltimore to rack up huge yards play after play. And…and Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin must turn pressure into sacks.
RAIDERS RAVENS PREDICTION
So how do we see it? This will be a contest of OLBs (Mack included) and pass blockers. Whoever wins this match up wins the game. Special Teams may come into play but we think it will be a game of chess, attacking the QB from unexpected lanes and trap doors until he’s beaten down and forcibly surrenders.
HC Jack Del Rio with another gutsy call down the stretch.
Raiders 22 Ravens 19