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Raiders @ Ravens: 3 Key Matchups

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The new-look Ravens have another winnable ‘must-win’ game on tap. Following their crucial home victory over the Bengals, Baltimore will host the lowly Raiders in Week 12. Now 5-5, John Harbaugh’s club must continue stacking wins to remain in contention for a wild card bid.

The Ravens lead the all-time series between these franchises with an 7-3 record that includes a 16-3 beatdown during the 2000 postseason and a 30-17 road win last October. On Sunday, Oakland snapped a five-game slide with a late field goal that propelled them to an upset win against the Cardinals. Baltimore’s league best scoring defense will have a mismatch against the Raiders 30th ranked scoring offense.

Oddsmakers have installed Baltimore as 11-point favorites with the point total set at 43, implying a final score of 27-16. Trends favor the Ravens who are 26-0 as a double digit favorite since their founding and 14-7 at home since 2016. Jon Gruden’s 2-8 squad is 1-7 as an underdog and 1-4 on the road this season.

Three key matchups:

LB C.J. Mosley vs RB Jalen Richard

Mosley has surely not had the contract year he was hoping for so far in 2018, but he does seem rejuvenated by the bye week. He appeared to be a step quicker in pass defense against Cincinnati. Mosley’s tackling numbers are near his career averages but he has not made the game changing plays that previously garnered Pro Bowl recognition this year, with zero interceptions, zero forced fumbles, zero sacks and just two tackles for a loss.

It is unlikely Doug Martin or DeAndre Washington will find much running room between the tackles with Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams stuffing the gaps. Therefore, receiving back Jalen Richard will be called upon to help move the sticks. With 51 receptions for 432 yards and an 86-percent catch rate, he is the Raiders most reliable target.

If Mosley can stifle Richard, it will be a challenge for the Raiders to mount an effective attack.

LG Alex Lewis vs DT Maurice Hurst

The fifth round rookie defensive tackle is the lone bright spot on an Oakland defense relatively devoid of talent. Once considered a first round talent coming out of Michigan, a medical issue pushed Hurst down the draft board. He has proven the Raiders wise to take the chance on him by producing 24 solo tackles, four sacks, three pass deflections and a forced fumble in 10 games from the three-technique position.

Lewis and center Matt Skura have been the weak links on the Ravens line. Similar to the blocking unit as a whole, the third-year guard is better in pass protection than run blocking. Nonetheless, the run-heavy Week 11 game-plan was seemingly beneficial for Lewis and he appears to be recovered from a Week 6 neck injury.

Fielding the NFL’s 31st ranked run defense and 30th ranked scoring defense, the Raiders need their impressive rookie to make an impact if they hope to win on the East Coast.

SS Tony Jefferson vs TE Jared Cook

Baltimore’s issues defending tight ends have been an ongoing problem. Cook is the Raiders top playmaker, his 65 targets and four touchdowns lead the team. And his 12.8-yards per reception is one of the best marks at the position across the league.

Coordinator Martindale should be able to give Jefferson help in coverage because the Raiders lack threatening wide receivers. Still, the Ravens safety pairing has been average at best in coverage this season. Jefferson and Eric Weddle have graded as PFF’s #26 and #24 safeties, respectively. A lack of speed in the middle of the field has prevented the unit from dictating tempo.

Neutralizing Cook would allow the defense to truly dominate Oakland.

Score prediction: Ravens 23, Raiders 6