Photo credit: OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS)
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer
OAKLAND — After playing three of their first four games of the season on the road, the Raiders begin a three-game home stand when they host the visiting Baltimore Ravens at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Sunday’s matchup will mark the third-straight season that the Raiders and Ravens have hooked up, in 2015 and in Baltimore last season, with Oakland winning the previous two meetings by one-score each.
Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. PT.
Oakland (2-2) is lost to the Denver Broncos 16-10 last week on the road in the Mile High City.
Defensively, Oakland limited the Broncos to just 298 yards of total offense and 155 net passing yards. Defensive end Khalil Mack registered two of Oakland’s four sacks on Denver starting quarterback Trevor Siemian, with defensive tackle Mario Edwards Jr. and linebacker Bruce Irvin collecting a sack a piece.
Mack also recorded seven tackles in the game and with his two sacks, now has four sacks on the season, the most he’s had through the season’s first quarter.
Through four games, the Raiders rank 13th in the NFL on defense, limiting opponents to 19.8 points per game. Opponents have only scored seven touchdowns against the Raiders so far this season.
Not only was the loss to their bitter AFC West rival stinging, but the lost of starting quarterback Derek Carr to a traverse process fracture in his lower back in the process is even a bigger loss. Carr was injured late in the third quarter after taking a knee in the back by defensive end Adam Gotsis, while being sacked by Shelby Harris and Derek Wolfe.
Backup quarterback EJ Manuel came in relief of Carr, completing 11-of-17 passes for 106 yards, but threw an interception in the final minutes that ended Oakland’s chances of a comeback.
With Carr shelved for the next 2-6 weeks after a CAT scan revealed the fracture on Monday morning, Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio named Manuel the starter against Baltimore.
A former first-round pick in 2013 by the Buffalo Bills out of Florida State, Manuel has thrown for 3,608 yards with 19 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Manuel has completed 58-percent of his passes in 29 career games played, with 17 career starts.
For the second-straight week, Oakland’s offense sputtered racking up just 258 yards total, but converted just 2-of-12 on third down after going 0-for-11 on third down in the Silver and Black’s 27-10 loss in Washington back in Week 3.
Oakland was missing starting wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who sat out Week 4 with a chest injury suffered in the Washington game, and the Broncos were double-teaming Amari Cooper with a safety helping over the top of the offense.
Crabtree remains questionable for Sunday’s game and has been Oakland’s top playmaker with a team-leading three touchdowns receiving, but the aforementioned Cooper has been a no-show the past two weeks.
In both of Oakland’s recent losses, Cooper has registered just three catches for 15 yards and zero touchdowns and a slew of drops. Cooper leads the NFL with seven-on-target drops according to ESPN Stats and Information. The former Alabama wide receiver has to step up and regain the form that led him to back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in two of his first four seasons in the NFL.
The offense, which ranks 17th in the NFL averaging 22.8 points per game, has to find better ways of moving the football and getting running back Marshawn Lynch involved more. Lynch, who only has 45 rushes for 151 yards and one touchdown, is part of a ground-attack that only averages 86.2 rushing yards per game, 24th in the NFL out of 32 teams.
Baltimore (2-2) is in a similar place as the Raiders are entering Sunday’s game.
Like Oakland, Baltimore has lost two-straight games following a 2-0 start and are looking to rebound after losing to a fellow rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-9 at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 4. The Ravens at one point, found themselves down 19-0 midway through the AFC North battle.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco completed 31-of-49 passes for 235 yards, a touchdown and two back-breaking interceptions in the fourth quarter. For the season, Flacco has completed 73-of-118 passes (61.9-pct) for 601 yards with four touchdowns and six interceptions for a Ravens’ offense that ranks 31st in the league, averaging just 15.0 points per game.
Baltimore’s rushing attack could be key against Oakland Sunday, as the Ravens average 127.3 yards rushing per game, which ranks ninth in the NFL. Running back Alex Collins, who the Ravens activated from their practice squad in September, has gained 206 yards rushing on 25 attempts (8.2 avg) in three games this season.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Collins is one of three NFL running backs to gain over 200 rushing yards on fewer than 45 carries this season, joining Tennessee’s DeMarco Murray (42 for 215) and Philadelphia’s LaGarrette Blount (42 for 249).
Tight end Benjamin Watson and running back Javorius Allen leads Baltimore with 16 catches a piece, while Watson leads the team with 146 receiving yards. Jeremy Maclin is a chain-moving wide receiver for the Ravens, but Mike Wallace is Baltimore’s best deep threat.
Oakland is thin at cornerback with David Amerson (concussion) and rookie Gareon Conley (shin) both questionable for Sunday’s game.
But Baltimore’s defense, which has been suspect at times this season, can still cause headaches for opposing offenses. Through four games this season, the Ravens have registered an NFL-best nine interceptions.
Safety Eric Weddle, and cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Brandon Carr each have two interceptions a piece, making the Ravens the only team in the league with three players with at least two interceptions through Week 5.
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs leads the Ravens with three sacks this season, while inside linebacker C.J. Mosley leads Baltimore with 38 tackles.