The Baltimore Ravens are aiming to halt their two game slide on Sunday in Oakland. John Harbaugh is also hoping to remedy his team’s recent road struggles in Week 5. The Raiders are in the midst of their own slump after dropping consecutive road games to Washington and Denver. In a competitive AFC, this showdown has major postseason ramifications.
Five key matchups:
TE Ben Watson vs LB Nicholas Morrow
Watson has been the Ravens most consistent offensive performer this season. He has 16 catches for 146 yards and a score so far. Oakland is vulnerable to pass catching tight ends, as evidenced by Delanie Walker’s 7-76 line in Week 1 and Vernon Davis’ 5-58-1 output in Week 3. Morrow, an undrafted rookie, is the Raiders best coverage linebacker. The Ravens floundering offense will be hard pressed to move the ball without production from their veteran tight end.
RT Austin Howard vs DE Khalil Mack
Mack is a one-man wrecking crew and perhaps the best all-around edge defender in football. He has accumulated four sacks, four quarterback hits and nine pressures through four games. Howard has been up-and-down since signing with the Ravens after his release by Oakland. Ronnie Stanley will have his hands full with Mario Edwards Jr. and Bruce Irvin on the blindside, so Howard must elevate his play to provide Joe Flacco with time in the pocket. Mack cannot be stopped, but Howard has the ability to contain his former teammate.
NT Michael Pierce vs C Rodney Hudson
Pierce has been stellar in his second season. He racked up seven tackles last week against Pittsburgh while Brandon Williams was held out. Williams is again expected to be unavailable, putting even more stress on Pierce to clog the interior against Hudson, Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson. With E.J. Manuel scheduled to start in place of Derek Carr, the Raiders will likely lean on their powerful interior run blockers. Without another strong effort from Pierce and the Ravens other defensive tackles, it could be a long afternoon.
CB Brandon Carr vs WR Michael Crabtree
Crabtree is expected back after missing Week 4 due to a chest injury. He torched Shareece Wright and the Ravens secondary last season for three touchdowns on seven catches, and topped the 100-yard mark with a score against Baltimore in 2015. Fortunately, Carr has brought much needed stability to the Ravens cornerback corps. With Amari Cooper struggling this season and Jimmy Smith’s availability in doubt, the Crabtree - Carr matchup will be pivotal.
S Tony Jefferson vs RB Marshawn Lynch
Beast Mode has been rather pedestrian lately, posting a measly two yards per carry behind the Raiders mauling line with a long run of five yards over the previous two weeks. Oakland will try to establish the run to take pressure off their backup quarterback. Jefferson has not yet made the impact many were expecting when he signed in Baltimore last offseason. This Week 5 contest will give Tony an opportunity to be the proverbial hammer to Lynch’s nail.