Ravens-Raiders Sunday primer

The Ravens should have an easy time of it today against the Raiders for the running game matchups alone. They'll also have a big edge on special teams. What the Ravens don't want to do, though, is get involved in a slugfest with the Raiders. Their biggest worry might be keeping their composure if Oakland is able to make a game of it.

First, let's look at the run matchups:


-- The Raiders' run defense has been shredded all season. They gave up 316 rush yards to the Jets, 220 to the Giants, 215 to the Broncos (first game) and 195 to the Cowboys. Oakland has given up 21 rushing touchdowns so far. So that establishes that it's not very good defending the run. Against Ray Rice and Le'Ron McClain, it should be no match. Rice will dazzle them and McClain will knock them out. Willis McGahee will get the leftovers.

-- Stop the run is what the Ravens' defense does best -- better than anyone else in the NFL, in fact. With very uneven quarterbacking, the Raiders will need to run the ball. Charlie Frye has started twice for the Raiders, hasn't thrown a touchdown pass yet, has four interceptions and has a lower passer rating even than JaMarcus Russell. Oakland's best runner, Justin Fargas, is doubtful with a knee injury. Michael Bush pounds between the tackles, but that isn't likely to work. And Darren McFadden is a virtual bust as a first-round pick in 2008, hampered by injuries.

Now, look at the special teams:

-- The Raiders are last in the NFL in kickoff returns, only 29th in punt returns. They are also 29th in kickoff coverage. Yes, they have punter Shane Lechler and kicker Sebastian Janikowski. But the Ravens (No. 2 in kick returns, No. 5 in kick coverage) should win the field position battle handily.

Finally, there is one area where the Raiders are on even terms with the Ravens. Penalties.

Oakland has been assessed 112 penalties -- second most in the league -- for 890 yards this season. The Ravens have been flagged 110 times for 1,057 yards. Baltimore ranks third in total penalties, but first in penalty yardage.

The Raiders have had six games with at least nine penalties. The Ravens have had five. One thing the Ravens don't need today is a flag-throwing contest.