In this game-day staple, blogger Matt Vensel makes four sometimes-courageous predictions for the game. All he asks is that you don’t hold it against him whenever those predictions end up being embarrassingly wrong.
It was a quiet week out at the Castle, likely the calm before the storm of playing the Pittsburgh Steelers twice in three weeks. But first the Ravens have to contend with the Oakland Raiders, who are 3-5 but got one of those wins against the Steelers in Week 3 and also nearly beat the undefeated Atlanta Falcons last month.
Under center for the Raiders is Carson Palmer, who appears to be settled in out in Oakland after he was traded to the Raiders by the Cincinnati Bengals last season. Palmer gave the Ravens fits when he was with the Bengals. His individual numbers weren’t overwhelming, but his 9-4 record in the rivalry is nothing to dismiss.
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To beat the 6-2 Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, where they haven’t lost a game in nearly two years, Palmer is going to have to throw often and efficiently Sunday afternoon. One of my four predictions this week covers the former, though we’ll see how efficient Palmer is. What are my other predictions sure to go wrong? Read on to find out.
1. RAY RICE WILL RUN FOR A GAIN OF 40-PLUS YARDS
The Ravens running back had a season-high 25 carries in last week's 25-15 win over the Cleveland Browns, but with 98 yards, he came up just shy of the century mark, which he hasn't hit since Week 5. But there will be opportunities for Rice to break some big ones against a Raiders defense that just allowed Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie running back Doug Martin to run for 251 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries. With a similar build and running style, Rice will give the Raiders flashbacks Sunday, and I see him breaking at least one long run. After all, Martin had three touchdown runs of 45 or more yards in Tampa Bay’s win last week.
2. CARSON PALMER WILL CHUCK AT LEAST 45 PASSES
I suppose this isn’t that bold of a prediction, seeing as though Palmer has thrown at least 46 passes in four games, including 61 last weekend. As the Raiders tried to rally from a three-score deficit, Palmer threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 414 passing yards and four touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions. With running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson expected to miss Sunday’s game, the Raiders will have to lean on Palmer once again. And if the Raiders fall behind again, which I think they will because the Ravens are so good at home, Palmer’s right arm is going to get a workout.
3. THE RAVENS WILL RECORD AT LEAST THREE SACKS
The Ravens rank 26th in the NFL with 13 sacks, and they haven’t recorded more than two in a game since Week 1. That will change Sunday if the Raiders have to pass as much as I think they will. The Raiders like to attack teams through the air with the vertical passing game, and to give speedy wideouts such as Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore enough time to get downfield, their statuesque quarterback must take deep drops in the pocket. That’s the main reason why I think the sluggish Ravens pass rush will have a little bit of success for once. I’m sure linebacker Terrell Suggs will get a boost from making his home debut, too.
4. TORREY SMITH AND ANQUAN BOLDIN WILL COMBINE FOR 10 CATCHES, 150 YARDS AND TWO SCORES
When Martin wasn't running all over the Raiders last week, Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman was having success throwing the football. He had 247 yards and two touchdowns against the Raiders' 21st-ranked pass defense and completed a 64-yard bomb to Vincent Jackson. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has been ineffective the past few weeks, but facing the Raiders defense at M&T Bank Stadium is just what he needs to get back in a groove -- and his top two targets, Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, will benefit. I’m not sure who will have a better game, but I see them combining for 10 catches, 150 receiving yards and two scores.