It’s never a good thing when a must when game comes on the road against a team like the Baltimore Ravens, but that’s the NFL for you. After getting on a bit of a two game roll, the Raiders seemed to take a step back against Tampa Bay in Week 9. If they are to have any chance of pulling the upset today in Baltimore, they will need to take a big step back in the right direction, and get some good performances in these three key areas.
Get something out of running game
With both Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson not suiting up for this game, the running game will be in the hands of Taiwan Jones and Marcel Reece. While it likely will not be as big of a focus in the Raiders’ game plan as a result, it is important that they are able to effectively run the ball in at least some situations, providing the offensive attack with balance. For Taiwan Jones, the focus will be ball security. He is capable of taking any play to the endzone, but will need to protect the football for the coaching staff to keep him on the field. Running out of spread and shotgun formations should help both running backs utilize their speed and quickness against a Ravens defense that has its fair share of injuries. Passing as many time as Carson Palmer had to last week is not a recipe for success in the NFL, so if the Raiders can get something going on the ground, it will go a long way toward a positive end result to this game.
With the way that the Raiders’ offensive line has struggled in pass protection, the no huddle will be a key component to wearing out the Ravens’ pass rush. Not to mention, the Raiders’ offense has looked remarkably better whenever using the no huddle, so considering they will be missing their top two running backs, expect it to be used even more. What’s more, is that Carson Palmer is going up against a familiar opponent from his days in Cincinnati. The Raiders’ best chance of success is getting the team to the line early, and allowing Palmer to make adjustments as he sees fit based on his experiences against the Ravens’ defense over the years. Using the no huddle, as it seems to have been quite often so far this season, will no doubt be a key to victory in today’s game.
Stop the run
This one seems obvious, but after last week’s debacle against the running game of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it has to be included. The amount of missed tackles, and runs where Doug Martin went untouched on his way to the endzone was extremely disappointing considering how the run defense had performed leading up to that game. A matchup against the Ravens’ running game and Ray Rice does not get any easier, but the defense needs to bounce back. If Rice has a performance anything similar to the one Doug Martin had, this will be an extremely long game for the Raiders. Both the defensive lineman and linebackers need to do a better job of getting off blocks, and getting back to performing like the run defense that we saw prior to the Tampa Bay game. If they can do that, they will force the Ravens into being more one-dimensional, giving their defense a better chance for success overall.
The 3-5 Raiders need this win if they are going to stay in both the AFC West and Wild Card races. With some extremely key injuries, it doesn’t get any easier, but performances in these three areas will go a long way to helping their chances of pulling out a win. If the Raiders can pull off this upset, on the road in Baltimore, they could really start to establish the much needed momentum to make a run at the playoffs throughout the second half of the season.
Follow me on Twitter: