The Baltimore Ravens (6-2) will play host to the Oakland Raiders (3-5) this Sunday in an AFC matchup between two teams that need a win to gain some momentum.
The Ravens are sitting atop the AFC North after a 25-15 victory over the Cleveland Browns last week, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are only trailing by one game in the division standings, which certainly puts Baltimore in a stressful position.
Since the Steelers are playing the abysmal Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, they'll likely secure a win, which makes this a must-win for Baltimore if they wish to remain the sole owners of the division.
The Raiders have been a disappointment in 2012, but after winning two of their last three they are suddenly only two games behind the first-place Broncos and still very much alive in a conference that has struggled to produce clear wild-card favorites.
The Ravens are the obvious favorites, but don't count out an Oakland team that has found its groove in recent weeks.
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
When: 1:00 p.m. ET
Watch: CBS, DirecTV 707, NFL Sunday Ticket (Live Stream)
Listen: Sirius 139
Spread: Baltimore -9 (Bovada)
It's no surprise that Baltimore—the second-best AFC team record wise—is viewed as a healthy favorite over the Raiders, who have struggled to show consistency this season.
But looking over Baltimore's season, it appears the nine-point favoritism may be slightly overconfident.
Only two of Baltimore's seven victories have been by 10 or more points. Even poor teams such as Kansas City and Cleveland were able to limit Baltimore to a one-score margin of victory.
It would be shocking if Baltimore doesn't come out on top, but it might be tighter than people think.
Over/Under: 46 (Odds Shark)
The over/under would accurately reflect this game had it been earlier in the season, but Oakland has found some comfort on offense as of late.
In the last three games, Oakland is averaging 27 points per game, while Baltimore has averaged 33 points per game throughout the 2012 season.
Baltimore's defense is not as dominate as we've seen in the past and Oakland is improving on offense, making the "over" an attractive option.
Baltimore Ravens Injury Report (NFL.com)
|Ed Reed||S||--||Did Not Participate In Practice|
|Marshal Yanda||G||--||Did Not Participate In Practice|
|Pernell McPhee||DE||--||Did Not Participate In Practice|
|Bobbie Williams||G||--||Did Not Participate In Practice|
|Morgan Cox||LS||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Josh Bynes||LB||--||Limited Participation in Practice|
|Jimmy Smith||CB||--||Limited Participation in Practice|
|Terrell Suggs||LB||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Sean Considine||S||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Dannell Ellerbe||LB||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Michael Oher||T||--||Limited Participation in Practice|
|Haloti Ngata||DT||--||Did Not Participate In Practice|
|Jacoby Jones||WR||--||Limited Participation in Practice|
|Bernard Pollard||S||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Ma'ake Kemoeatu||DT||--||Full Participation in Practice|
Oakland Raiders Injury Report (NFL.com)
|Miles Burris||LB||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Marcel Reece||RB||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Brandon Myers||TE||--||Limited Participation in Practice|
|Darren McFadden||RB||--||Did Not Participate In Practice|
|Keenan Clayton||LB||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Dave Tollefson||DE||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Shawntae Spencer||CB||--||Did Not Participate In Practice|
|Michael Mitchell||S||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Coye Francies||CB||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Sebastian Janikowski||K||--||Limited Participation in Practice|
|Matt Shaughnessy||DE||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Willie Smith||T||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Desmond Bryant||DT||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Richard Seymour||DT||--||Did Not Participate In Practice|
|Mike Goodson||RB||--||Did Not Participate In Practice|
|Matt Giordano||S||--||Limited Participation in Practice|
|Khalif Barnes||T||--||Limited Participation in Practice|
QB Carson Palmer (Oakland Raiders)
Carson Palmer is not an ideal fantasy starter for anyone, but he's a very solid option if your regular quarterback is on a bye week.
Palmer—despite his three interceptions—produced 414 passing yards and four touchdowns a week ago, while he has over 200 yards and at least one touchdown in each of his last four starts.
If you have a need at quarterback this particular week, give Palmer a look.
QB Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens)
After an impressive start to the season, Joe Flacco has been held under 200 yards three times in the last four games and hasn't had multiple touchdown passes in a game since Week 3.
Flacco will break out of the slump eventually, and it could very well happen against an Oakland defense that ranks 21st in pass defense (245.2 yards per game).
It's a gamble considering his recent performances, but Flacco could be a solid option if you're needing help at quarterback this week.
WR Torrey Smith (Baltimore Ravens)
Torrey Smith had a hot start to the season with 332 yards and three touchdowns in the first four games, but he has been held under 50 yards in each of the last four games.
Smith is the new go-to guy in the Baltimore aerial attack, so he won't be contained forever. Keep the faith and stick with Smith for now.
WR Denarius Moore (Oakland Raiders)
Denarius Moore has come to life in recent weeks, including a 104-yard performance against Atlanta and a 96-yard performance against Kansas City.
Along with the increased yardage, Moore has three touchdowns in the last four games.
If Moore is on your roster, he is certainly developing into a must-start type of player. Don't miss out on that potential.
What They're Saying
Jerry McDonald—Oakland Raiders beat writer for the Oakland Tribune—pointed out on Twitter that the Raiders' top two running backs are banged up.
Raiders notebook: McFadden, Goodson injuries serious issues heading into Ravens game . . .insidebayarea.com/raiders/ci_219…— Jerry McDonald (@Jerrymcd) November 5, 2012
If Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson are both held out with high ankle sprains, it will drastically limit the Oakland run game and turn them into a one-dimensional team.
As for the Ravens, the team's official Twitter account relayed the words on John Harbaugh, who suggested the tight ends could see an increased role.
The tight ends could be more productive the second half of the season, Harbaugh said: bmob.us/46v— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 6, 2012
It will be interesting to see how Ravens TE Dennis Pitta fits into the game plan, and this is something for fantasy owners to keep an eye on as well.
Key Matchup: Carson Palmer vs. Baltimore Secondary
With both Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson suffering from injuries, the Oakland Raiders are dangerously thin at running back and will need to rely on the pass.
With this being the case, there will be a lot of pressure on Carson Palmer, who will need to be the focal point of the offense this Sunday.
Baltimore has a secondary that ranks merely 22nd in the NFL (246.8 yards per game) and will have to step up against an Oakland offense that's guaranteed to go airborne.
Needless to say, this will be a key matchup on Sunday.
Oakland has been a much better team in recent weeks, but it's hard to go against Baltimore.
The Ravens own the second-best record in the AFC and are clearly an early favorite to make a deep run in the playoffs.
With Baltimore's home-field advantage and Oakland's one-dimensional offense, it would be shocking if the Raiders came out on top.