Home sweet home indeed. The loudest stadium in football. A rabid fan base. Thee…toughest place for a visiting team to play. Baltimore returns home after nearly a month away between two road games and a bye week in search of their 16th straight win at the bank. It would also be their 24th win in their last 25 home contests. The Oakland Raiders (3-5) come in without their best players on both sides of the ball. Running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson will be absent, as well as defensive tackle Richard Seymour. Even with McFadden, the Raiders rank 31st in rushing the ball. For a Ravens team struggling to stop the run and keep the quarterback upright, this spells relief.
I’ve been looking all week for reasons that could spell trouble for the Ravens in this game with Oakland. I’ve only managed to find two. Carson Palmer is 9-4 in his career against the Ravens. Against some better Ravens defenses than this group as well. However, Carson Palmer isn’t the same player he once was, and in their prime, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmanzadeh were two of the most reliable pass catchers in football. The other reason, Darius Heyward-Bay. The Maryland born star receiver will probably have a lot of friends and family in attendance. Sometimes having those people in attendance gives you that little something extra to play for.
Those are just two people though. As for the rest of the Raider squad, they rank 22nd against the run, and 21st against the pass. Another stat that bodes well for the Ravens. Joe Flacco has an average QB rating of 99.1 at home over the past four seasons with 42 TDs and 15 INTs. Over the same span, Ray Rice averages 4.3 yards per carry and 9.6 yards per catch. Advantage Ravens.
The last time the Ravens lost a home game to a team below .500 in the second half of the season was five years ago to the date. November 11, 2007 against Carson Palmer’s Bengals (3-6). The Ravens turned the ball over six times leading to Shayne Graham’s seven field goals. 21-7 the final.
The Ravens aren’t even susceptible to the always dreaded “trap game.” Trap game being one against an inferior team (like the Raiders) while a real important game looms next week (like the Steelers) and the team gets trapped looking ahead instead of taking care of the task at hand. Coach Harbaugh preaches one game at a time like many coaches do. His team responds to that as I can’t see any games during his tenure where the team faltered against a bad team with a Pittsburgh, or New England, or Indianapolis with Peyton looming. Maybe the week two loss against Philly with the Pats coming here in week 3. But we didn’t know Philly would be as bad at the time.
As we delve deeper into the second half of this season, it’s time to start looking at where the Steelers are matching up as far as a division title race goes. The Ravens have a one game lead over the 5-3 Steelers in the AFC North, and Pittsburgh heads to Kansas City for Monday Night Football. Pittsburgh should win that favorable battle making Sunday a must win for the Ravens. I’ll be more comfortable with a one or two game lead heading into Pittsburgh for Week 11 rather than being knotted up.
A must win for Baltimore, and I’ll go ahead and predict an easy win this week. With Flacco’s home success and T-Sizzles first game of the year in front of the home crowd, Call it 38-16. No shaking my head on this day.