Ravens-Raiders: A Preview

Jeff Little@@JeffLittle32Senior Writer IOctober 25, 2008

This is a rematch of the two teams that played for the AFC Championship in Oakland eight years ago, a game won by the Ravens 16-3 en route to their Super Bowl championship in 2000.

One team will come out of this game on a two-game winning streak.

Both teams have young signal callers as starters and offenses that rank near the bottom in terms of overall rankings and consistent production.

The Ravens have one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Raiders have a lot of talent and are still working on putting it all together and playing the perfect game.

That is what it is going to take to win this game.

The worst thing about this game for the Raiders is that they’ll have to make a cross-country trip to play an early game. West Coast teams, due to the time change and waking extremely early and essentially playing an early-morning game, notoriously have not fared well in these games.

When the Ravens have the ball

The Ravens' offense, lead by rookie QB John Flacco, has been a more successful running than passing. The team has had more success rushing and will run the ball at the Raiders.

As a unit, they’re ranking is number 26 in points, averaging 17.5 per game, 26th in total yardage at 296 yards per game, 25th in passing yardage at 161.8 yards per game, and the team is ranked seventh in rushing at 134.2 yards per game.

The passing game ranks very low, and the Ravens' receivers are a little banged up, so it appears that they’ll rely on a run-heavy offensive game plan. Joe Flacco has only thrown two touchdown passes but he has amassed seven interceptions.

When the Raiders are on defense

The Raiders' defense needs to shut down the Ravens' rushing game. They’re facing rookie QB Joe Flacco and need to go after him hard to force him and the Ravens' offense into turnovers.

As a unit, they’re ranked 23rd in points allowed at 23.7 per game, 26th in total yardage at 360.5 per game, 22nd in passing yardage at 224.3 per game, and 24th in rushing yards allowed at 136.2 per game.

A high-level defensive effort needs to be had from the start of the game to the end of the game. The Raiders' defense has gotten seven interceptions so far this season, and, ironically, Joe Flacco has also thrown the same amount.
The Raiders have done a decent job of sacking the quarterback this year. Everyone is contributing, and that type of effort will be needed against the Ravens.

If the team can shut down the run game, mix up the coverages to confuse the young QB, and put a tremendous amount of pressure in Joe Flacco’s face from right up the middle to flush him out of the pocket, the Raiders should be able to force a few turnovers, which will be huge in this game.

When the Raiders have the ball

The Raiders are a running team that is moving toward finding their passing game. They’re going up against one of the best defenses and the league’s stingiest against the run.

As a unit, the Raiders rank as 28th in points at 16.2 per game, 23rd in total yards at 300.3 per game, 27th in passing yards at 157.3 per game, and fifth in rushing at 143 yards per game.

This is a strength-on-strength matchup, but the Ravens are the league's best at stopping the run and haven’t allowed a 100 yard rusher in 25 games.

The task will be difficult but the Raiders cannot abandon the running game. They need to run the ball, but it needs to be more of a 60/40 mix with them passing the ball about 60 percent of the time while mixing in play action.
I would even like to see the Raiders get creative and run some two-tight-end sets and have an extra tackle in for added protection or to seal the edge. They'll have to show something the Ravens haven't seen on film, and this little wrinkle could be effective.

The Raiders will need to throw the ball more this week. It is imperative that all of the wide receivers step up their game and contribute as Javon Walker did last week.

It needs to be a concerted effort between the WRs, TEs, and RBs on short to medium throws and the occasional long pass attempt to keep the defense honest. The Raiders might have to use their TEs, FBs, and RBs in as blockers if the protection doesn’t hold up.

JaMarcus Russell will need to do a good job of limiting his mistakes, taking what the defense gives him, and protecting the football. It is not a bad decision to throw the ball away, if need be.

When the Ravens are on defense

The Ravens are one of the NFL’s best at shutting down the opposition. They run a base 3-4 defense and the front line of (RE) Haloti Ngata, (NT) Justin Bannan, and (LE) Trevor Price do an excellent job of slowing the opposition's running game, occupying blockers and protecting their linebackers so they can make tackles.
It could also be described as clearing the way for first ballot Hall of Famer MLB Ray Lewis.

The Ravens will shut down the Raiders' rushing game and get after JaMarcus Russell. He is a young QB, and the veteran Raven defense will look to get some hits on him, sack him, and create turnovers.

As a unit, the Ravens rank fifth in points at 16.7 per games, second in total yardage at 243.8 per game, fourth in passing yards at 176.7, and first in stopping the run at 67.2 yards per game.

Key Matchup

Raiders Defensive Coordinator vs. Ravens Defensive Coordinator
It will be interesting to see this matchup and find out what new twist each will bring.

I have a feeling that there is a possibility that both teams might show multiple fronts throughout the game, but don’t be surprised to see the vaunted Bear 46 from both teams.

The winner of this game could easily come down to which young QB makes fewer mistakes. Or the outcome could come down to which team’s running game gets on track.

This will be a low-scoring contest with winner of the turnover battle being the winner of this game.


Ravens 16 – Raiders 13


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