The Silver and Black Raider Nation invade Baltimore for the clash of what could be two former 2007 draft picks at quarterback. Of course, we are talking about both ends of the draft spectrum, with Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell as the first pick in the draft and Ravens Troy Smith in the 5th round. However, timing is everything and Smith may just be in the right place at the right time. The retirement of Steve McNair and the ineffectiveness of Kyle Boller may pave the way for Smith to have an extended tryout in 2008. This may ultimately be a temporary assignment, as the Ravens didn't spend a first round pick on Joe Flacco to sit on the bench for too long. He could certainly end up carrying the clipboard for at least this year, and who knows how long Smith can continue to succeed enough to hold off the inevitable. The Cleveland Browns are looking at the same scenerio with Derek Anderson starting and Brady Quinn waiting in the wings.
JaMarcus Russell sat most of 2007 while the Raiders employed a QB-by-committee approach last season. Finally, Russell received his opportunity late in the season and is looking to be named the starter by default this season. There is no reason to hold off any longer, as this Oakland team is young all over the roster and should earn their wings together as they grow and mature. At some point, if things pan out, they should return to excellence sooner rather than later. They have a young, strong QB, and now have a great rookie RB in Arkansas' Darren McFadden to lead them into the future. Oakland's defense was their stong point, with their pass defense rated one of the NFL's best. Conversely, their rush defense was at the bottom of the ratings, which explains the fact that everyone ran wild over them, while passing only when they had to. The only stat that really matters to a defense is total points allowed, and that is partially why Oakland finished in the AFC West basement in 2007 with a record of 4-12, having allowed almost 400 points.
Unfortunately, the Ravens defense only gave up two touchdowns less than the Raiders in 2007. Luckily, the Ravens will be healthier on defense, while the Raiders have to cope with the retirement of DT Warren Sapp. Therefore, I fully expect the Ravens to be better on defense, while the Raiders will not. Both offenses should improve, but I'd rather be facing the Raiders defense than the Ravens if I'm a second year QB. The combination of the home field advantage, a more consistent offense and a healthy defense should make this one of the easier games for the Ravens in 2008. For once, the Ravens should be able to win this game going away, with the outcome settled in time for the fans to confidently head for the exits long before the final whistle.
Ravens: 30 Raiders: 17
Season Record: 5-3