Regular Season Week 17
When: 1:15 p.m. PDT
2009 Records: Ravens (8-7) Raiders (5-10)
History: The Ravens lead the all-time regular season series 4-1
Television: CBS; DirectTV 717; Blacked out locally
Line: Ravens by 10.5 points
SB Nation, Ravens vs Raiders Preview here.
As we reach another week 17 of the NFL regular season, Raiders fans for the 7th straight season find themselves looking more forward to the offseason than the playoffs. This is of course because the Raiders have achieved the opposite of what they are supposed to do by reaching double-digit losses instead of wins. The 2009 Raiders season was a schizophrenic as it could be with the team unable to put together back-to-back wins at any point this season, despite favorable matchup opportunities. The team also had the uncanny ability to defeat some of the best, playoff caliber teams in the league, while losing to some of the worst. Today presents another one of those "trend" opponents when the Raiders host the playoff aspiring Baltimore Ravens.
I guess for a final game of the season, you would like to see the Raiders at least show some decorum in a game that is "meaningless" to them, by responding to last week's debacle in Cleveland where 13 flags were thrown against them. For the Ravens, their season is on the line and if they win they will be playing next week. On paper, there should be no way that they should lose to the Raiders, but games aren't played on paper, so if the schizo- Raiders form holds, then an upset should not surprise.
The Raiders on offense will once again trot out Charlie Frye at QB, who will continue his audition for a roster spot for next season. Though no one needs to see JaMarcus Russell touch the ball again, it would be nice to see J.P. Losman get some snaps and see if he has anything to offer for next season. Frye, who last week tossed 3 interceptions against Cleveland's soft secondary, gets another shot at a banged up Ravens secondary that is already without Fabian Washington and Ladarius Webb and today won't have safety Ed Reed available. Because of banged-up nature of the Ravens defense and the Raiders offense having some weapons, it will be a game where if there is some intelligent play calling, the Raiders could exploit the Baltimore deficiencies to their advantage. Unfortunately, Tom Cable is calling the plays and "intelligent play calling" and Tom Cable are unknown to each other. Against the Ravens defense, the Raiders should get McFadden involved almost entirely as a pass catcher rather than a runner and use Bush primarily, but moving Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata will prove especially difficult, but obviously it will be required for interior running success. Zach Miller and the wide receivers all have favorable matchups so if Frye has the time they could do some damage. If this game becomes a low scoring defensive battle, then the Raiders at least can bring on the Polish Canon, Sebastian Janikowski to blast one through the uprights from anywhere.
While for the most part, the Raiders defense has played quite well this season, but still has the same problem plaguing them now as it has for the past 7 losing seasons, stopping the run. The Ravens will be coming in with Ray Rice, the second-year back topped 100 yards rushing for the second time in three weeks with 141 against the Pittsburgh, and he also has a team-high 74 receptions. Rice is second behind Tennessee's Chris Johnson with 1,952 yards from scrimmage. If the Raiders are going to have any chance in this game then they are going to have to at least reduce the damage that Rice can cause. If the Raiders don't have an answer for Rice, then Flacco and the rest of the Ravens offense will dictate how this game will go. A good matchup to watch will be Flacco's recent favorite target, Todd Heap versus Tyvon Branch, who has acquitted himself quite well against the leagues top tight end so far this season.
At any rate, the Ravens really need to win this game and that is just the type of game that plays into the Raiders hands in their 2009 schizo season. Which Raiders team are you expecting to show up today? What are your thoughts now for the final game of the 2009 season and heading into this offseason?
Happy New Year to all! And good luck to Saint with his pending addition to his family and the SABP tailgate party today.