Battle Plans: Ravens vs. Raiders

Offense

1. A Sprinkle of Rice Won’t Do

Last Sunday, the Ravens got Ray Rice going again in the offense, but the overall consistency was still lacking, especially in the second half. Once Cleveland started stacking the box with eight defenders, the running game stalled and there were no adjustments. Instead, the team kept pounding the middle with Rice instead of working the ball off tackle or varying their rush alignments.

Against an Oakland rush defense that is reeling, it’s not only imperative to get Rice the ball, but to also find different ways to get him involved. That means using Rice on counters, draws, or even motioning him into the backfield from the receiver position. Rice is versatile enough to run the ball any which way and the team has to put his skills on display on Sunday.

2. Dust off Pitta

What has happened to Dennis Pitta? In the first three games of the season, he averaged nearly 63 yards per game and scored two touchdowns. Since then, Pitta hasn’t topped 35 yards and is invisible in red zone situations.

Pitta has to be more involved in the offense, especially when the Ravens are in their run heavy sets on first down. These are prime opportunities to get Pitta going off of play-action. The Ravens will line up in tighter sets against Oakland, and Pitta’s versatility to motion out wide or out of the backfield as an H-back should come into play.

3. Break out the Gadgets

The Raiders may have one of the fastest defenses in the league, but they are also wild and inconsistent. To date, the Raiders have given up 32 plays covering 40 yards or more. They are a poor tackling team that remains susceptible to penalties and big plays.

This could be the week to call a flea-flicker or a few reverses to test Oakland’s defensive integrity. If the Raiders are caught out of position, the Ravens should be able to get a clean score or two.

Defense

1. Keep Palmer Guessing

Carson Palmer has been a thorn in the Ravens’ side throughout his career. And now he rolls into Baltimore with another high-flying aerial attack that can light up the scoreboard

However, Palmer remains a gambler that will try to fit the ball into some tight spots. Moreover, he can still be deceived with effective pre-snap movement.

Watch out for Ed Reed to continue his cat and mouse game with Palmer and shift around to mask Baltimore’s coverages. Whether the secondary plays Cover 1, Cover 2 or Cover 3, they’ll need to vary their looks and Reed will be the major chess piece to bait Palmer into a mistake.

2. Defending the Check down

Oakland’s backfield will have a significantly different look and feel. While the Ravens avoid the dynamic Darren McFadden, they’ll still have their hands full with the combo of Marcel Reece and Taiwan Jones.

In particular, Reece will present matchup problems as a receiver out of the backfield. The converted receiver has tremendous athleticism for a man his size. Palmer will look for Reece as a safety value in passing situations, and the Baltimore defenders need to be prepared to track and bring him down in the open field.

3. Staying in Nickel and Dime looks

The Ravens have rarely used dime (four corners and two safeties) this season but this could be the perfect game to break out the package. The Raiders will spread the field plenty of times and they may even pass the ball 45-50 times. If the defense is caught in the wrong personnel package, Palmer will keep his foot on the gas with a no-huddle attack.

Bottom line: The Ravens will need to keep their corners active on Sunday.

One-on-One Matchup of the Week

Denarius Moore vs. Jimmy Smith

This is a matchup between two of more physically gifted second-year players in the league. Moore is emerging as a top flight wideout for Oakland. He is vertical threat with the ability to make defenders miss in the open field. Not only will Moore test Smith’s downfield coverage technique, he’ll also challenge his tackling ability on underneath routes.

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