Ravens run offense vs. Raiders run defense
The Ravens averaged 3.7 yards per carry during the preseason, but the running game has struggled. The team has a potentially dominating offensive line, but may find it hard clicking against the Raiders' line of DEs Anthony Smith and Pat Swilling and DTs Russell Maryland and Chester McGlockton. Plus, the Ravens are starting halfback Earnest Byner, who spent most of the preseason running with the second team.
Ravens pass offense vs. Raiders pass defense
The Raiders' Terry McDaniel, Larry Brown and Albert Lewis are solid cornerbacks, but the Ravens' forte is pass blocking. QB Vinny Testaverde should have ample time to pass, and the team's four-receiver set should be effective.
Raiders run offense vs. Ravens run defense
The Raiders have a good guard combination in Steve Wisniewski and Kevin Gogan, and have fared well with straight-ahead run blocking. But the Ravens' defensive scheme of shooting gaps and penetrating win cause problems. It win be interesting to see how Ravens rookie MLB Ray Lewis plays against a team that comes straight on. Lewis' strengths are pursuit and intensity.
Raiders pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense
Tim Brown is among the league's elite receivers, but the Raiders' passing attack shouldn't be much of a problem, especially with QB Billy Joe Hobert starting in place of the injured Jeff Hostetler. The Raiders win go after Issac Booth at right cornerback, but the Ravens probably will mix coverages to give Booth plenty of help from the safeties, Steven Moore and Eric Turner.
Both teams excel in this area. Cole Ford, an All-Rookie pick last year, led the Raiders in preseason scoring with 27 points, connecting on an eight of his field goals, including a career-long 53-yarder. Jeff Gossett is no Ray Guy, but he's steady and consistent. The Ravens counter with Matt Stover, one of the game's most consistent kickers, and Greg Montgomery, who averaged 40.0 yards per punt in the preseason. Tim Brown returns punts for the Raiders Jermaine Lewis for the Ravens. Get out the stopwatches.
Ravens rookie G Jonathan Ogden goes against Raiders DT Chester McGlockton, who is coming off his second straight Pro Bowl year. Ogden improved as a run blocker in the preseason, but he didn't face anyone in the class of McGlockton, who could wreck the Ravens' running attack. Jonathan, welcome to the NFL.
It win be an emotional game for the Ravens because Baltimore has not been involved in a regular-season NFL game since the Colts moved after the 1983 season. Fan support-and the fact that the game is being played in the Ravens' house-works in the team's favor.
A loss by the Ravens would dampen the party. Ravens by 7.