Last weeks win didn’t silence the critics, as Baltimore nearly lost to the Browns. Oakland, just like Cleveland, isn’t a horrible team. This isn’t a team that gets stomped on week in and week out. However, it is a game Baltimore should win. The Raiders enter this game 3-5 and are in 3rd place in the AFC West. All of their losses have came against teams with records at a least .500. They have two wins against poor competition in KC and Jacksonville, but they did have an impressive win over Pittsburgh. They don’t look that intimidating, but Baltimore certainly can’t look past them.
The surprising thing about Oakland is that their running game has been pretty miserable. In fact, they are 31st in the league at running the football. Most around the game believed Darren McFadden would drive this offense, but it simply hasn’t been the case. He has struggled to stay healthy, which is the story of his career, but has received heavy workloads in most contests. Now he and backup Mike Goodson have been diagnosed with high ankle sprains, which can take players out for several weeks. Both at this point seem in doubt to play Sunday in Baltimore. That makes Taiwan Jones the likely starter. He has only 17 career rushes, and only one was this year. To say he is inexperienced is a severe understatement. With teams routinely shredding the Ravens rush defense apart recently, this is a great opportunity for the unit to bounce back.
With the rushing game in question, expect Carson Palmer to throw a lot in this game. He had an insane 61 passes in last weeks loss against Tampa. I obviously don’t think he will throw that much against Baltimore, but the passing attack should be their focus. With Darrius Heyward Bey back and Denarius Moore having a solid season, Palmer will be the focal point of this offense. He is prone to mistakes though, with already 10 on the season.
The Raiders defense has been up and down all season. Last week they gave up a historic day to rookie RB Doug Martin. The question is, how much of that was Martin, and how much was the Raiders defense? Tampa was without their top two interior lineman, but Martin has been trending upwards for quite some time. Either way, Martin had well over 200 yards of total offense which is unacceptable for any defense. This makes Ray Rice an obvious choice to be the workhorse in this game. He finally was the focal point of the offense last week in Cleveland and performed pretty well. He will likely see a strong workload in this game. The Raiders pass and run defense both rank 21st in the league. So the Ravens can really pick and choose how they want to attack in this one.