Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
The Raiders and flying East rarely mix well and this Week 10 match-up against the Baltimore Ravens will be the toughest test yet.
The Raiders still haven't won on the East coast since back in 09 when Bruce Gradkowski led an improbable victory against Pittsburgh. Its ironic to me that this losing streak on the East has lasted since then, because I attribute that game as the beginning point of the climb out of the dark days.
I believe that game vs Pittsburgh gave a sense of confidence back into the Raiders players that they could overcome their stay in football purgatory. The Raiders have been getting better ever since that game but they need to prove they are still on that track this year. This game for Baltimore can do that for them.
Luckily for the Raiders they have a player that Baltimore and their fans know very well as a real challenge. That player is Carson Palmer. Just as Pittsburgh fans confirmed earlier this year, fans of teams that played Palmer in the AFC East when he was a Bengal remember him and do not like playing him.
The players on those teams remember Carson too. Lets hope he can burn another memory of him into their minds with another great performance on Sunday. The Raiders need him to play great to have any chance in this game.
With both Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson in walking boots the Raiders are going to need to rely big on their passing game. Realistically they have needed to rely on the passing game all year so maybe it isn't going to hurt so much to game plan that way. Ed Reed, safety of the Ravens, is going to have a very busy day though that is for certain.
The Raiders can not completely abandon the run game or this Baltimore defense will have a field day going after Palmer. Its not an ideal situation but it appears Taiwan Jones is going to be a key factor in this game because of that. Here is Taiwan's chance to show he belongs in this league, he has the speed to play but I worry about his strength.
Jones needs to get some positive yards rushing but the bigger key to him is going to be his blitz protection. When the Ravens see Taiwan in the backfield they will blitz unless he proves capable of picking it up. In order for the Raiders to have success Palmer is going to need to be able to trust that Taiwan can hold his own against the pass rush.
Hopefully we see Marcel Reece run the ball a few times too so that the Ravens will have to respect the run while Marcel is in too. The Raiders will need to mix in Jones and Reece on both run and passes otherwise the backfield will be too much of a tell of what play is coming next. Its also likely that the Raiders will have more 2 back plays called in this game for the added protection against a tough defense.
Oakland will need Darrius Heyward-Bey to have the game of his career. The Ravens will probably keep more safety attention over the top of Denarius Moore and that could open underneath patterns for DHB. With Ray Lewis no longer manning the middle of the field that is exactly where the Raiders need to attack. I also expect Brandon Myers to have a big game because of that too.
There is one specific player that the Raiders absolutely need to target. That player is Ravens cornerback Cary Williams. This corner has been victimized at one of the highest rates I have ever seen with a 70.5 completion percentage when thrown at Williams. Carson needs to identify who Cary is covering every play and take advantage of this weakness in the Ravens secondary.
As for the Raiders defense, they really better be prepared to play Ray Rice. Every football fan in America saw what Doug Martin did last week and Martin aspires to be Ray Rice. Rice is the number one comparison used when people talk about Doug Martin so it definitely leads to some seriously uneasy feelings about this upcoming game.
Ray Rice is a sneaky, tough runner that has amazing hands out of the backfield. I expect the Ravens to run Rice right at the Raiders and as soon as the safeties come in the Ravens will strike deep. Torrey Smith of the Ravens is probably the most similar player in the league to the Raiders Denarius Moore and Joe Flacco loves to hit Smith deep.
The Ravens also have one of the strongest receivers in the league in Anquan Bolden. That means that Bolden is definitely who Michael Huff is going to be covering. Huff's aggressive nature is a good match-up against the 6'1 220lb Bolden. The Raiders absolutely need Huff to be able to win this match-up because the Ravens offense works best when Anquan is demanding the ball. If Bolden gets going he is that extra weapon that opens up everyone else on the field.
Joe Flacco tells everybody he can that he is elite, but he only shows that once in awhile on the field. Unfortunately for the Raiders he is due for one of his performances that makes you think maybe he really does belong in elite status conversations. With the Raiders main focus after the Tampa game needing to be stopping Ray Rice, if the great Flacco shows up the Raiders are in serious trouble.
I can't say I feel great about this game, I can't even say I feel good about it. However I do feel like the Raiders might have a chance to win it. Carson Palmer knows the Ravens and plays well against them. The Raiders will be relying on him to play great and I think he will do that. Hopefully its enough for a victory because at the Raiders current 3-5 record another loss would be devastating.
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