After falling to the Denver Broncos 16-10 last week, the Raiders find themselves at 2-2 and in third place in the AFC West. They will look to regain their momentum from earlier in the season with a home game against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens may be the perfect opponent to face this week as the Raiders have beaten them in each of the past two seasons. If there is one thing the team and fan base could use right now, its a win over an AFC team. Lets take a look at how they can make that happen.
Get the run game going
The Ravens are ranked 25th in the league in run defense giving up an average of 127.3 yards per game. After facing the best run defense last week, the Raiders will look to establish a ground attack in this game.
Quarterback Derek Carr figures to miss this game due to his back injury. Taking pressure off of back up quarterback EJ Manuel will be key.
The Raiders rushing offense is currently ranked 24th managing only 86.3 yards per game over the first four weeks. That must improve those stats if they want to in turn improve on the results of the last two weeks. That starts with starting running back Marshawn Lynch who is taking steps to correct it.
"He sat down with us on the plane,” Raiders left tackle Donald Penn said this week of Lynch, “he sat down and watched some film with me and Rodney [Hudson], asking us you know, what we're reading or what we're thinking on this.”
“He's definitely still learning, still coming into stuff. This is new for him, a totally different scheme than what he ran in Seattle his whole career. He's definitely getting better. I know the thing he's doing this week is spending a lot of extra time meeting with the offensive line coach getting some behind the scenes stuff on their own to get stuff going so we can get stuff flowing."
Marshawn and the offensive line certainly have to be on the same page and read the same keys for the running game to be successful. The problems in the Bronco game were not limited to mental aspects however.
When offensive coordinators design power based runs, they start with a double team. Everything else in the play is dependent upon the offensive line winning that match up and controlling that point in the line. So when defensive linemen make plays like this, the run is essentially over before it evens begins.
Broncos signing of nose tackle Domata Peko has really improved their run defense. Plays like him splitting this double team of center Rodney Hudson and guard Kelechi Osemele illustrates why.
Pressure Joe Flacco
Flacco has completed 61.9% of his passes for 601 yards this season but has 6 interceptions compared to 4 touchdowns. The Ravens rank dead last (32nd) in passing offense averaging only 142.5 yards per game. The Raiders defense cannot allow the Ravens to get on a roll.
One major reason the Ravens passing attack hasn’t gotten off the going is Flacco has already been sacked 9 times this season. The most interesting thing on the film was just how powerless the Ravens blockers were to protect Flacco.
They attempted to max protect on this play with seven players blocking only a 4 man rush and still gave up the sack.
The Raiders pass defense ranks 19th giving up and average of 227.8 yards per game. It will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. plans to attack this offense. I would expect him to play zone and allow the front 4 to pressure Flacco while throwing in zone blitzes to prevent him from getting into any kind of rhythm.
Flacco will force passes into coverage when under duress. With the secondary watching his eyes and the front collapsing the pocket, the Raiders could benefit from an interception or two. They don’t have one yet this season.
Flacco attempts to hit this seam route between four defenders and it doesn’t go the way he intended. The Raiders would certainly help out EJ Manuel if they could give him some short fields to work with.
Make them one dimensional
The strength of the Ravens offense is the running game. They rank 9th in the NFL with 127.3 yards per game. Ravens running back Alex Collins is averaging an insane 8.2 yards per carry on 25 carries for 206 yards. He has not broken into the endzone this season and the Raiders will focus on ensuring he doesn’t get that first score this week.
The Raiders rush defense ranks 24th giving up 120 yards per contest this season. They have at times been very effective in stopping the run game, but are unable to sustain it. They will need to this week. As it is in many games, stopping the Ravens rushing attack will be the key deciding factor in this game.
On this run the Ravens used motion to out flank the Steelers defense. The tight ends do a remarkable job in run blocking which will open up play action opportunities. If the Ravens get their run game going, it is going to be another long week Raiders.
Both teams are 2-2 and looking to get things going again after two-straight losses. If the Raiders can stop the run, pressure Flacco, and get their run game going, they will be the ones sitting at 3-2 after this weekend.
Who will win this game?
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