Oakland heads to Baltimore to take on the tough task of beating a 6-2 Ravens team on Sunday.
After giving up 42 points, 515 total yards and 278 rushing yards to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Raiders defense faces another tough offense that features a dynamic running back with Ray Rice.
Rice, whose style is similar to Doug Martin’s, is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has rushed for 622 yards and six touchdowns. There’s no doubt Rice is expecting a big game after seeing what his college head coach Greg Schiano and Martin did to the Raiders defense.
Linebackers will need to maintain their gaps as they attempt to limit Rice from breaking off big gains the way Martin did last week. The missed tackles that occurred last week must be limited as Rice will take advantage of any Raiders misstep.
Starting cornerback Ron Bartell returns to the playing field on Sunday and returns to his starting position after the team released defensive back Pat Lee. Bartell suffered a broken shoulder blade against San Diego in the season-opener and hasn’t played since.
The return of Bartell should help bolster a pass defense that has struggled for much of the year, giving up 245.3 yards per game.
It won’t get any easier this week for the secondary as they play a confident Joe Flacco and a pair of quick, dominant receivers in Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. The Raiders secondary will need to keep an eye on Smith and not let his speed beat them deep for a big play.
Like the Raiders, the Ravens’ defense is beat up and injured as well after losing Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis earlier this season. Defensive lineman Haloti Ngata and linebacker Terrell Suggs are battling injuries of their own and are not playing at 100 percent.
Running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson suffered high-ankle sprains last week and remain out, forcing the ball to be put in the hands of fullback Marcel Reece and second-year running back Taiwan Jones. Jones impressed in preseason and training camp but has only carried the ball once this year for two yards.
Jones hopes the offensive line can provide more of a push than it has all season, allowing the Raiders to rush for just 77.3 yards per game, second worst in the NFL. The Ravens are allowing the fifth most rushing yards per game (139.5), a stat that plays into the Raiders favor.
With his first and second string running backs out of the game, there’s no doubt that quarterback Carson Palmer will continue to throw the ball a lot in hopes of exploiting a Ravens secondary that is also struggling. Baltimore’s defense is allowing 246.8 passing yards a game while Palmer is averaging 281.3 yards per game, 6th in the NFL.
Wide receivers Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey will hope to have a big game should the offensive line hold up and give Palmer enough time. The Raiders offensive line has been less than stellar this year and still face a tough task in the Ravens even if they aren’t 100 percent.
Friday’s injury report:
Out: RB Mike Goodson (ankle), RB Darren McFadden (ankle), DT Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring), CB Shawntae Spencer (foot)
Questionable: T Khalif Barnes (groin)
Probable: DT Desmond Bryant (cardiac), LB Miles Burris (elbow), LB Keenan Clayton (shoulder), CB Coye Francies (thumb), S Matt Giordano (hamstring), TE Richard Gordon (hamstring), K Sebastian Janikowski (left groin), S Michael Mitchell (finger), TE Brandon Myers (shoulder), RB Marcel Reece (hamstring), DE Matt Shaughnessy (shoulder), T Willie Smith (knee), DE Dave Tollefson (shoulder)
Out: DE Pernell McPhee (thigh)
Questionable: DT Haloti Ngata (shoulder), G Bobbie Williams (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
Probable:LB Josh Bynes (thigh), S Sean Considine (chest), LS Morgan Cox (shoulder), LB Dannell Ellerbe (finger), WR Jacoby Jones (toe), DT Ma’ake Kemoeatu (knee), T Michael Oher (ankle), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder, knee), CB Jimmy Smith (abdomen), LB Terrell Suggs (ankle)