The 2018 season will be, like, the eleventy-fifth year in a row the Raiders have to play the Ravens. They may as well be a divisional foe at this point. Oakland has won three of the last four meetings with Baltimore, but lost last year 30-17. 2014’s game might be the most memorable because rookie QB Derek Carr led the Raiders on a last-second comeback.
These Ravens have been the definition of average for the last several years, but they did manage to win a Super Bowl in 2013 as Joe Flacco went on a tear in the playoffs. Baltimore will go as far as Flacco’s arm takes them, which these days is about 8-8.
Key Additions: WR Michael Crabtree, WR John Brown, QB Lamar Jackson, QB Robert Griffin III, TE Hayden Hurst
Key Departures: OT Austin Howard, WR Jeremy Maclin, RB Danny Woodhead, S Lardarius Webb
NFL.com Power Poll: #14
2017 Total Offense: #27 at 305.4 YPG, scoring offense #9 at 24.7 PPG
2017 Total Defense: #12 at 325.1 YPG allowed, scoring defense #6 at 18.9 PPG allowed
Ravens secondary vs. Raiders receivers
The Ravens’ defensive backs were an infirmary last year, with Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young and Jaylen Hill all lost to season-ending injuries. This forced the team to pick up the option on Brandon Carr’s contract, which they would probably rather not have been forced to do. I suspect Marlon Humphrey will see plenty of time at corner this year. As for Smith, even if he is healthy, we’ve seen Amari Cooper torch him before with way less talent drawing attention away from Cooper than he has now with Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant. Baltimore has a solid, if ancient, pair of safeties in Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle, and they will be the key to stopping Oakland’s passing attack.
Raiders’ rush attack vs. Ravens’ defensive line
The Ravens run a 3-4 defense, and their DEs are the pedestrian Brandon Williams and the oft-injured Brent Urban. Their nose tackle is Brandon Pierce, who was good enough that the Ravens traded away Timmy Jernigan without a second thought. A mammoth of a man at 6’0” and 340 pounds, Pierce eats up blocks and lets the Ravens’ linebackers get to the ball.
A large portion of this game will be decided on how well Oakland’s line handles Pierce as well as edge rusher Terrell Suggs. If they have success in the trenches against the Ravens’ line, then Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin could have a big day. Fullback Keith Smith will also be key to opening up rush lanes, as CJ Mosley is sure to be coming right at Lynch on every play.
Khalil Mack vs. Orlando Brown
The Ravens drafted the son of their former right tackle, Orlando Brown Sr., in the third round of this year’s draft. Brown Jr. fell that far because he had one of the worst combine performances in the history of the NFL. However, his awful showing in Indianapolis doesn’t change the fact that he was a stud tackle at Oklahoma last year, helping the Sooners to a College Football Playoff berth and helping Baker Mayfield win the Heisman Trophy.
Brown is currently penciled in as the team’s starting right tackle across from stud LT Ronnie Stanley, a first-round pick two years ago. If Brown remains the starter all the way up to this game, he will face the fiercest pass rusher in the NFL in Khalil Mack. Should Brown’s total lack of athleticism at the Combine prove to be indicative of the real Brown and not just that he had a bad day, Mack will eat him alive, as will speed rusher Arden Key or DE Bruce Irvin. Even if he is on form like at Oklahoma, Brown is in for a long day regardless.
The Ravens rarely do much in free agency because they are paying Joe Flacco roughly the entire GDP of South Korea to be totally average. Flacco’s backups this season are way more exciting- Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and Heisman winner Robert Griffin III. The Ravens will look to get the ball into all of their hands at some point for some trick plays. Hopefully that works against the Steelers and not the Raiders.
On paper, the Ravens are utterly milquetoast. They are good but not great at every single position except right guard, where future Hall of Famer Marshal Yanda still lurks, as his knees render him unable to move. Their biggest free agent acquisition this year was Michael Crabtree, and if there is one team that knows how to defend him, it’s the Raiders.
This game will take place in Baltimore in Week 12, which is more than enough time for every single Ravens player to suffer a season-ending knee injury, as is their custom. We will know a lot more about the Raiders then than we know right now, as far as how Jon Gruden and Paul Guenther’s systems are working in reality. We won’t know any more about the Ravens, because if they’re good they’ll go 9-7 and if they suck they’ll go 7-9. If Jeff Fisher were a football team, he would be the Ravens.
The Raiders have had success against Baltimore in recent years, but none of the games have been easy. It’s always hard even for good teams to win there, and the Raiders have pulled out a few narrow wins against the Ravens lately. Let’s hope they can keep the magic going this year with a better team than they’ve fielded in a long time.