As much as the Raiders love their passing game, being successful on the ground against the Ravens would be a ticket to their first win in Baltimore that wasn’t against a franchise named the Colts. In particular, look for the Raiders to run at Terrell Suggs to try and slow down his pass rush, and attempt to even out a run-pass ratio that at the moment stands at 118 pass plays and 76 rushes. The Raiders have to get the pass-run ratio more evened out, right now they depend to much on the pass.
Defensively, the Raiders must do what they can to make Joe Flacco uncomfortable in the pocket, so far this year he has sat in the pocket and slowly picked teams apart. Run defense is a concern for the Raiders, but the Ravens come in averaging only 3.3 yards per carry, so that will probably be a wash.
The Raiders have injuries on the offensive line and have already used five different players at right tackle. The offense because of this is a little shaky against an always tough Ravens defense. The Ravens must keep the pressure on QB Derek Carr, who threw for a career-high 351 yards with three touchdowns in a 37-33 victory against them last season.
The Ravens will look to exploit the Raiders by trying to get the running game revved up. This should also help loosen the secondary for Flacco, who looks to throw the ball downfield more this season. Oakland is ranked last in the NFL by allowing 476 yards (26.3 points) per game. Baltimore will need to capitalize with touchdowns in the red zone as opposed to settling for field goals.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Ravens WR Steve Smith vs. Raiders CB Sean Smith. Sean Smith is coming off an eight-catch, 87-yard game against Jacksonville and at age 37, looks like he made the right choice playing another year. Sean Smith had an interception in the Raiders win over Tennessee and was very solid in coverage throughout the day after coming off two shaky performances to start the season. At 5-foot-9, 195 pounds, Steve Smith is a smaller receiver, which can give the 6-foot-3 Sean Smith some trouble. Steve Smith does not have the quickness of say a Brandin Cooks, the New Orleans wide out who got Sean Smith benched in Week 1 after a 98-yard touchdown reception. Steve Smith caught 10 passes for 150 yards against the Raiders last season.
–Raiders DE Khalil Mack vs. Ravens T Ronnie Stanley. Mack graded out well in the first two games but didn’t have a sack. There was some pressure from Mack exerted on Marcus Mariota in Week 3, but overall it was his worst game of three. At some point, some offensive lineman is going to pay. Look for the Raiders to try to match Mack up with rookie tackle Ronnie Stanley.
INJURY REPORT: RAIDERS — Out: S Nate Allen (quadriceps), T Austin Howard (ankle), T Menelik Watson (calf). Questionable: C Rodney Hudson (knee), RB Taiwan Jones (knee), T Matt McCants (knee). RAVENS: — Doubtful: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), CB Sheldon Price (thigh), T Ronnie Stanley (foot). Questionable: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), WR Devin Hester (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), T Alex Lewis (concussion), G John Urschel (shoulder)
PREDICTION: The Raiders are travelling East for the second consecutive week (Oakland is 4-22 in the Eastern time zone over the past 10 seasons, the worst mark in the NFL) and this will be tougher than last week’s visit to Tennessee. That being said I think the Raiders pull the upset here. I think Mack has multiple sacks and Carr has a big day.
OUR PICK: Raiders 31-28.