The Raiders travel to Baltimore this week to face the Ravens. While as a group they will be matched up against the East Coast trip and the Raven-ous fans, there are some key matchups inside the game that are very important as well.
Taiwan Jones has been thrust into the starting lineup with the injuries to Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson. Prior to last week when the two running backs had gone down, Jones hadn't touched the ball once on offense. He is now expected to receive the bulk of the carries for the Raiders. He is very lucky Ray Lewis won't be staring back at him from the other side of the line of scrimmage. The guy who will be looking to leave his mark is Danelle Ellerbe. He has become a fulltime player since Lewis went out. Since then he has emerged as the Ravens leading tackler as well as their sack leader. It will be the battle of the fill-ins. Ellerbe has proven he is worthy. Jones has not.
Ngata is hurting at the moment with a shoulder injury. But if he plays, Ngata is better than most defensive tackles on his worst day. Wisniewski will have his work cut out for him trying to open holes in the running game as well as keep Ngata out of the backfield. He is a monster of a man who can create havoc with the right matchup. Without Wisniewski getting some push, "Ngata" will be Spanish for what the Raiders will get in the run game.
We have raved about Palmer's abilities in the no-huddle offense. He comes to the line, sizes up the defense, and makes the call. Other times he comes to the line with a play in mind but an audible handy. When he approaches that line in either of those situations, the first and last place he will look before that ball is snapped is at Ravens All Pro linebacker, Terrell Suggs. While the Raiders are lucky enough not to have to face Ray Lewis, they weren't lucky enough to face the Ravens in that window in which Suggs was injured to start this season. Their defense looks a lot different with Suggs rushing the passer and Palmer's job will be to account for him and make sure there is a blocker in place to allow him time to throw as well as not get his head removed from his body.
Last week Doug Martin ran for 251 yards and four touchdowns on the Raiders. Ray Rice is the man everyone is comparing Martin to. That spells disaster unless the freeway sized holes Martin was running through are closed. Bryant gets the start this week for the injured Seymour. Seymour's knee had been bothering him all season and at some point in last week's game, his hamstring also began to give him problems. His performance was clearly lacking and it's the reason a couple of the gaping holes Martin had were through Seymour's position. Bryant is healthy and needs to hold up where Seymour did not or Rice will show why he is the kind of talent Martin aspires to.
The Raiders finally get their original number on starting corner back on the field. He was lost with a broken shoulder blade in week one and the Raiders struggled to replace him. His first task will be to stop Ravens tough second year receiver, Torrey Smith. He is the Ravens number one deep threat so Bartell will need to perform like the Raiders number one corner in order to try and neutralize him. Smith also has five touchdowns this season. And with the emphasis being on stopping Ray Rice, Bartell will likely not get much help from the safeties. Not that the safeties were able to slow down Martin last week but still.