On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens have a golden opportunity to notch their fourth win of the season in a revenge game against the Oakland Raiders. Another conference win would give them an early headstart in playoff seeding. However, the Raiders are a tough matchup for the Ravens, fortunately this game will be played in Baltimore.
The Raiders have allowed more passing yards than any team in the NFL, as their dangerous pass rushers have been unable to get on track. Their secondary improved tremendously in a road win against the Titans last week, after getting torched by the Saints and Falcons to begin the season.
On the other side of the ball, Oakland has the second best total offense in the league through three games, lead by their running game that averages nearly 150-yards per game. They have one of the best offensive lines around and a pair of talented receivers for strong armed QB Derek Carr to throw to.
Expect yet another tight game in Week 4. Oddsmakers have the Ravens listed as three-point home favorites, meaning the two teams are essentially evenly matched. If the Ravens can get their rushing attack going against their bottom five run defense, they should pull out a hard fought home win. Here are four other matchups that will help determine the winner...
QB Joe Flacco vs. S Reggie Nelson
Flacco has played well this season, and should continue to improve as he builds more chemistry with his primary receivers. But he has also thrown a couple bad interceptions. Throughout his career, Flacco struggled against the Benagls more than any other team, and Reggie Nelson has played a large part in these struggles by creating turnovers and breaking up vertical passes. Now playing for the Raiders, Nelson has an interception and two pass breakups in the first three games. The Ravens will probably need to connect on a couple downfield shots and win the turnover battle on Sunday.
WR Michael Crabtree vs CB Shareece Wright
Wright is a fine tackler, but has issues covering quality receivers, especially in the redzone. Corey Coleman and Allen Robinson have scored on him over the last two weeks. Jimmy Smith will have his hands full with Amari Cooper, leaving Wright to mark Crabtree often. Crabtree has experienced a resurgence with the Raiders. He posted 900 yards and nine touchdowns last season, and is coming off an eight catch 102-yard output in Week 3.
OG Kelechi Osemele vs DE Lawrence Guy
The offseason signing of K.O. has given Oakland a big, mauling offensive line for power back Latavius Murray to run behind. Osemele is off to a strong start with the Raiders and will be lined up across from 5-technique Lawrence Guy for much of the game. Guy is a solid player, but he is still a liability against the run on occasion. Guy will have to take on blocks in order to prevent Osemele from making second level blocks on the Ravens speedy inside linebackers. If not, it could turn into a long day for the Ravens defense if the Raiders can keep them off balance by mixing up successful running and passing attacks.
WR Steve Smith vs CB Sean Smith
Raiders cornerbacks Sean Smith and David Amerson turned in excellent performances against Tennessee last week. Amerson deflected five passes and Smith snared an interception, they both have the talent to shadow the Ravens receivers in man coverage. Steve Smith has yet to catch a touchdown this season, but reestablished himself as Flacco’s go-to wideout last week with a 8-87 line. The Ravens should continue to target Senior on intermediate routes in crucial situations.