Oakland Raiders (2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (3-0)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore. TV: CBS, Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker, Steve Beuerlein.
SERIES HISTORY: 9th regular-season meeting, Ravens lead series 6-2. Raiders snapped a four-game losing streak in Week 2 last season with a 37-33 win as quarterback Derek Carr completed 30 of 46 passes for 351 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Michael Crabtree caught nine passes for 111 yards and a touchdown and Amari Cooper seven passes for 109 yards, including a 68-yard scoring pass. The Raiders have never won against the Ravens in Baltimore, losing their inaugural game at Memorial Stadium in 1996 and all four games at their current home. In the lone postseason game between the two, the Ravens beat the Raiders 16-3 on Jan, 14, 2011 in the AFC championship game at the Coliseum en route to a Super Bowl championship
KEYS TO THE GAME: As much as the Raiders love their passing game, being successful on the ground against the Ravens would be a ticket to their first win in Baltimore that wasn't against a franchise named the
Colts. In particular, look for the Raiders to run at Terrell Suggs to try and slow his pass rush, and attempt to even out a run-pass ratio that at the moment stands at 118 pass plays and 76 rushes.
Defensively, the Raiders must do what they can to make Joe Flacco uncomfortable and unable to reel off an endless string of completions as he did against Jacksonville, and as was done to them in the first two games of the season. Run defense is a concern for the Raiders, but the Ravens come in averaging only 3.3 yards per carry.
The Raiders have injuries on the offensive line and have already used five different players at right tackle.
The Ravens will look to exploit this weakness by trying to get the running game revved up. This should also help loosen the secondary for Flacco, who looks to throw the ball downfield more this season. Oakland is ranked last in the NFL by allowing 476 yards (26.3 points) per game. Baltimore will need to capitalize with touchdowns in the red zone as opposed to settling for field goals.
The Ravens must keep the pressure on QB Derek Carr, who threw for a career-high 351 yards with three touchdowns in a 37-33 victory against them last season.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Ravens WR Steve Smith vs. Raiders CB Sean Smith. Sean Smith is coming off an eight-catch, 87-yard game against Jacksonville and at age 37, still has the skill and know-how to get open and work a cornerback. Sean Smith had an interception in the Raiders win over Tennessee and was very solid in coverage throughout the day after coming off two shaky performances to start the season. At 5-foot-9, 195 pounds, Steve Smith is a smaller receiver, which can give the 6-foot-3 Sean Smith some trouble. However, with Steve Smith does not have the quickness of say a Brandin Cooks, the New Orleans wide out who got Sean Smith benched in Week 1 after a 98-yard touchdown reception. Steve Smith caught 10 passes for 150 yards against the Raiders last season.
--Raiders DE Khalil Mack vs. Ravens T Ronnie Stanley. Mack graded out well in the first two games but didn't have a sack. There was some pressure from Mack exerted on Marcus Mariota in Week 3, but overall it was his worst game of three. At some point, some offensive lineman is going to pay. Mack can line up on either side, but the most intriguing matchup against Baltimore will be to put him in against Stanley, the rookie first-round draft pick who has been a plug-in-and-play starter. Stanley is coming off a rough game against Jacksonville, committing two penalties and getting beaten for a sack by Yannick Ngakoue.
INJURY REPORT: RAIDERS -- Out: S Nate Allen (quadriceps), T Austin Howard (ankle), T Menelik Watson (calf). Questionable: C Rodney Hudson (knee), RB Taiwan Jones (knee), T Matt McCants (knee). RAVENS: -- Doubtful: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), CB Sheldon Price (thigh), T Ronnie Stanley (foot). Questionable: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), WR Devin Hester (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), T Alex Lewis (concussion), G John Urschel (shoulder)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Raiders center Rodney Hudson. He drew his first holding penalty as a Raider against Tennessee and has been everything the team hoped for when he signed a five-year, $44.5 million deal in the off-season. Hudson excelled at pass blocking last season, but with Kelechi Osemele on his left side and Gabe Jackson to the right, has also been a key part of a rushing offense that is ranked second in the NFL. and is averaging an eye-popping 5.9 yards per carry.
FAST FACTS: The last time the Raiders finished out of the top 10 in penalties was last century, 1999 with their 98 penalties ranking No. 21 in the NFL. The Raiders led the league five times in the next 17 seasons and currently lead the NFL with 31 penalties. ... Ravens WR Steve Smith had 10 catches for 150 yards in last game vs. Raiders and ranks 10th in NFL history with 14,102 receiving yards.
PREDICTION: The Raiders are travelling East for the second consecutive week (Oakland is 4-22 in the Eastern time zone over the past 10 seasons, the worst mark in the NFL) and this will be tougher than last weken's visit to Tennessee.
OUR PICK: Ravens, 32-28.