Injuries are plaguing the Oakland Raiders as they head to Baltimore for a very tough road test.
The Raiders will be without defensive end Richard Seymour and star running back Darren McFadden. Not only was McFadden injured in last week's loss against Tampa Bay, but so was his primary backup, Mike Goodson.
At 3-5, a loss would begin to jeopardize any playoff aspirations the team may have, and they can't go into M&T Bank stadium planning to have Carson Palmer throw 61 passes, as he did last week.
So with their top two running backs out, Taiwan Jones, a second-year player out of Eastern Washington who has a total of 75 yards rushing in his career, will handle the rushing duties. The Raiders are certainly going to need to be able to lean on someone other than him on Sunday.
Enter Marcel Reece. Reece is classified as a fullback, but he's an extremely versatile one. He only ran the ball once this season and has just 234 rushing yards in his career, but he's a very effective pass catcher.
On his career, Reece has 80 catches and has averaged 11.6 yards per catch. But this season, he already has 26 receptions for 272 yards. Last year, he had 27 catches for 301 yards on the entire season. What does this mean? It means that the Raiders are finally realizing what a weapon Reece is.
He's one of the most underrated players in the entire league and is on pace for a career year. He has great hands for a fullback, is deceptively quick and is very hard to bring down. Plus, he is a matchup nightmare who can even run some deep routes in the passing game.
Reece is really a weapon like no other in the NFL, and if the Raiders can figure out how to take advantage of that, they will be all the better for it.
On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens will likely look to slow Reece down with linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain. They may even try their hard-hitting safety Bernard Pollard. If Palmer can get the ball into Reece's hands, he will be too quick for these guys and he is very good at picking up yards after the catch.
Oakland currently sits as a 7.5-point underdog (via Vegas Insider) and a loss would put them three games below .500 and in an uphill climb to reach the postseason. Defeating the Ravens will not be easy, but if they are to pull the upset, the key to doing so may just be Reece.