Raiders-Ravens: Opponent Scouting Report And Game Prediction

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The Ravens are likely worn out from their toughest travel stretch of the year–from London to Baltimore to the West Coast — where they’ve struggled.


WHAT: Week Five at Oakland Raiders
WHEN: 4:05 p.m. (ET); Sunday, October 8
WHERE: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum; Oakland (63,132)
RECORDS: Ravens, 2-2; Raiders, 2-2
LIFETIME SERIES (regular season): Ravens lead, 6-3; Raiders lead at home, 2-1, but Ravens won at Oakland in 2000 AFC Championship Game
TV: WJZ-TV (Channel 13) (Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, booth; Jamie Erdahl, sidelines)
RADIO: WIYY-FM, 97.9 (Gerry Sandusky, Stan White, Todd Heap)

REFEREE: Brad Allen

About the Raiders

Oakland’s football franchise began as an American Football League team when that league debuted in 1960, moving to Los Angeles in 1982 and returning in 1995. They are scheduled to move again in 2020–this time to Las Vegas. They won the AFL championship in 1967, three Super Bowls (XI, XV, XVIII), have 22 playoff appearances, and 17 division titles–the most recent in 2002.

The Raiders have appeared in five Super Bowls, but it has been 15 seasons since their last berth–a Super Bowl XXXVII loss to Tampa Bay. The Raiders have advanced to the AFC Championship Game 14 times, which is tied with New England for second-most in conference history (behind Pittsburgh, 16). Two of those games were against Baltimore teams. The Raiders lost to the Colts in 1970 at Memorial Stadium, 27-17, and fell to the Ravens in Oakland in 2000, 16-3. Since 1963–when longtime owner and managing general partner, Al Davis, joined the organization– the Raiders have posted a .548 win percentage, the league’s eighth-best record.

Last year, the Raiders rode a six-game midseason winning streak to a 12-4 record, but a late-season leg injury to quarterback Derek Carr doomed them in the wild-card game. Oakland opened 2017 with three of four games on the road, but the game against the Ravens is the first of a season-high three straight home games.

Head coach Jack Del Rio (21-16, including playoffs) is in his third season with the team. He is the 19th head coach in franchise history, and he is in his 32nd year in the NFL as a player and coach. Del Rio was the linebackers coach of the 2000 Ravens team that won Super Bowl XXXV. Three years later, he began a nine-season run as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars (69-73 overall). As a player, he was All-America at Southern California and played in the NFL for New Orleans, Kansas City, Dallas, and Minnesota. Del Rio is 4-2 against the Ravens in his head-coaching career.

There are several notable assistants on Del Rio’s staff, including assistant D-backs coach Rod Woodson, who played on the legendary 2000 Ravens defense; O-line coach Mike Tice, a former Maryland quarterback who also head-coached the Minnesota Vikings; defensive assistant head coach John Pagano, brother of former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano; and D-coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., winner of three Super Bowl rings with Dallas and San Francisco.

Through four weeks, Oakland is ranked 28th in total offense (24th rushing, 21st passing, tied for 16th scoring) and 20th in total defense (24th vs. rush, 19th vs. pass, 13th scoring). The Raiders have been especially good in the red zone on both sides of the ball. They have permitted only three touchdowns in 12 opponents’ trips (league-low 25 percent), and have a 66.7 TD rate on offense (tied for third-best).

The Raiders have a penalty-prone reputation but, this year, they only have 25 penalties through four games–the league’s 24th-most and nine fewer flags than the Ravens. After two straight games of posting a minus-1 turnover ratio, the Raiders are currently at zero. They have not intercepted a pass (note: the Ravens lead the league with nine), but have lost only one fumble. Last year’s turnover ratio was plus-16, tied for the league’s best.

–On a team that has suffered few injuries, EJ Manuel will step in at quarterback for Derek Carr (back fracture). The Raiders have just three players on injured reserve and 19 players of 22 that have started all four games. Manuel directed a nine-play, 73-yard drive in last week’s loss to Denver. But he also threw an interception with 1:06 left to seal the Raiders’ defeat. The Florida State product has a 2013 win over the Ravens to his credit while playing for the Buffalo Bills–in a game that saw Baltimore’s Joe Flacco throw five interceptions.

Running back Marshawn Lynch, a California graduate and Oakland native, paces a ground game that has slowed over the past two weeks after a hot start. He gained just 12 yards on nine carries against the Broncos. As a team, Oakland has gained just 56 rushing yards over the last two games–after racking up 289 in the first two contests. In two meetings against Baltimore, Lynch has averaged 132 scrimmage yards per game.

Overall, the Raiders’ offense had 70 plays of 20 or more yards last year, tied for the league’s fourth-most. But until last week, the team had not directed a 99-yard drive in any game since 2011. Oakland averaged 30.5 points over the first two games, but has scored just ten in each of the past two contests. The Raiders were 0-for-11 on third-down plays against Washington in Week Three and are 2-for-23 on third-down plays over the past two weeks.

Receiver Michael Crabtree, who played against the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII (109 yards, five catches, TD), leads the Raiders in touchdown receptions with three and is tied for the team lead with 170 yards, but he could miss the game with a chest injury incurred at Washington. Tight end Jared Cook leads in receptions with 16. Speedster Amari Cooper has 12, but he has dropped several wide-open passes. Seth Roberts has a touchdown in each of the Raiders’ last two games against the Ravens, including the game-winner in Oakland in 2015.

Last year, Oakland’s offensive line — beneficiary of more salary-cap money than any such unit in the league — allowed a league-low 18 sacks, but it has already permitted nine this year. Four of the five linemen have been in the NFL for six or more seasons, including left tackle Donald Penn (12th), who has started 160 straight games, the second-longest streak among active NFL offensive linemen. Left guard and ex-Raven Kelechi Osemele has 70 straight career starts.

The Raiders’ 4-3 defensive front is keyed by defensive end Khalil Mack, the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, who is also the first player in league history to make first-team All-Pro at two different positions (DL, LB). Since the start of the 2015 season, Mack has a league-high 30 sacks and has four forced fumbles–tied for most. This year, he has four sacks, including two last week in Denver. The Raiders have ten total sacks through four games, five more than at this time last year.

Six-year NFL veteran Bruce Irvin leads Oakland’s linebacking corps. Last year Irvin tied for the league lead in forced fumbles. This year he has two unnecessary roughness penalties. Rookie Marquel Lee (Wake Forest) starts in the middle, with second-year man Cory James (15 tackles, forced fumble against the Ravens last year) at the weak side. James is the Raiders’ leading tackler with 39 total stops and 25 solo tackles. After falling behind early in Denver last week, the Raiders kept the Broncos out of the end zone over the final three quarters.

Oakland’s secondary is being rebuilt through the draft, including 2017 first-round pick Gareon Conley and ’16 first-rounder Karl Joseph. Conley is dealing with a shin injury. Cornerback David Amerson (concussion) might also miss the game. Amerson’s 46 pass breakups since 2015 are the second-most in the NFL. Free safety Reggie Nelson played for Del Rio in Jacksonville and is in his 11th year, the second with the Raiders. Nelson’s 35 interceptions since 2007 are the most among active players; he has made two Pro Bowls.

Punter Marquette King, known for his post-punt celebrations, is leading the NFL in both gross average (52.6) and net (47.5). He has also downed a league-high three punts inside the five-yard line. But a fake punt against Denver last week failed to get a first down. Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, who’s filling in for the injured Sebastian Janikowski (the franchise leader in points and service time), is 7-for-7 on field goals and has hit all ten extra points. Long snapper Jon Condo (Maryland) is one of only three players to have joined the youthful Raiders squad before the 2014 season.

Kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson is averaging 29.7 yards per return and has a 30-yard average for his career, second only to Hall of Fame running back/returner Gale Sayers. As a Minnesota Viking, he scored against the Ravens in the famous 2013 “Snow Game” at M&T Bank Stadium. The Raiders’ kick-coverage team is allowing over 23 yards per runback. Oakland’s punt returner is second-year man Jalen Richard, averaging a mere 4.3 yards per runback.

Prediction

The way the Ravens’ offense is playing it doesn’t matter that Carr and Crabtree probably won’t be available for Oakland. Manuel is a backup, but he has beaten Baltimore before. Lynch is probably chomping at the bit to run through the Ravens’ injury-riddled defense. On top of that, the Ravens are likely worn out from their toughest travel stretch of the year–one that saw them go from London to Baltimore to the West Coast — where they’ve struggled.

Raiders 24, Ravens 10

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About Joe Platania

Veteran beat writer, Joe Platania, is entering his 39th year in Baltimore media. He covers sports with insight, humor, and prescient eye. A former longtime member in good standing of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and the Pro Football Writers of America, Platania manned the CFL Stallions beat for The Avenue Newspaper Group of Essex (1994 and ’95) and the Ravens beat since the team’s inception — one of only three local writers to do so — for PressBox, The Avenue, and other local publications and radio stations. A sought-after contributor and host on talk radio and TV, he often appears on “Inside PressBox” (10:30 a.m. Sundays) and he can be heard at 10 a.m. Saturdays on the “Purple Pride Report,” WQLL-AM (1370). He has also appeared on WMAR-TV’s “Good Morning Maryland” (2009), Comcast SportsNet’s “Washington Post Live” (2004-06), and WJZ-TV’s “Football Talk” postgame show — with legend Marty Bass (2002-04). Platania is the only sports journalist in Maryland history to have been a finalist for both the annual Sportscaster of the Year award (1998, which he won) and Sportswriter of the Year (2010). He is also a four-time Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association award winner. Platania is a graduate of St. Joseph’s (Cockeysville), Calvert Hall College High School, and Towson University, where he earned a degree in Mass Communications. He lives in Cockeysville, MD.



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