The Oakland Raiders hit the east coast for a road battle against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon.
At the halfway point of the season, with a record of 3-5, and with them being two games out of first place, today’s game is the first “Do or Die” game of the season for the Silver and Black if they want to contend for the division.
It’s not about them being mathematically out of the AFC West race, more like psychologically out of it. The Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers, the two teams sitting ahead of Oakland, have a much more established identity, and are at least winning the games they’re suppose to win.
But I digress.
Offensively, the Raiders come into Sunday’s contest with a huge void to fill at running back, as Darren McFadden, and Mike Goodson will be “MIA” due to high ankle sprains they suffered in last week’s lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Taiwan Jones, and Fullback Marcel Reece with split up the carries come game time. The Raiders need one of those special “third stringer breakout games” from Jones if they want to have any chance of controlling the time of possession, which is always key on the road.
The one bright spot in today’s game is with Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer, who is 9-4 lifetime against the Ravens. He will be asked to shoulder the load once again, as this team for most of the season, lives and dies with his decision making at the end of ball games due to an inefficient running game (as well as his turnover prone ways). Palmer must cap off drives with points (preferably touchdowns), and torment his former AFC North rivals if the Raiders want to stay close in today’s matchup.
Defensively, the Raiders must make up for last week’s dismal performance, in which they allowed a rookie running back to run all “buck wild” on them, as well as giving up some big pass plays that proved costly. With no Richard Seymour in the middle of that D-line due to a hamstring injury, it’s going to take a collective effort from Tommy Kelly & Co. to play with high intensity to put a muzzle on Ravens’ running back Ray Rice. They also must fluster Joe Flacco, who could possibly light up the Raiders secondary if he gets rolling early. Plain and simple, they must put Flacco on his #$% to disrupt the rhythm of Baltimore’s offense.
Head coach Dennis Allen is looking for that first signature road win in his rookie season, and hopes it takes place later on today. Which version of the Silver and Black will step out on the field come game time (one would hope it would be the team that played the Falcons four weeks ago)? This always seems to be a relevant question for a team still trying to establish their identity midway through the season. Hopefully for Raider Nation, it’s a victorious Oakland team that will give them something to gloat about come Monday morning.
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Written by Arthur Kai