Game Preview: Can Ravens Contain Raiders' Speed?


Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees wrote this on the bottom of the team meeting board:

"Do not underestimate anybody's speed."

The Raiders are known for drafting speed merchants. That was the philosophy under former Owner Al Davis and they haven't changed under his son, Mark.

While the Ravens don't play the Raiders often, they are fully aware of their speed. Baltimore is on high alert to not give up big plays this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

"When you play the Raiders, they are going to look good getting off the bus, and they are going to be fast getting off the bus," Pees said. "They are always a fast football team."

Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey ran the 40-yard dash in 4.23 seconds at the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine. Fellow wideout Denarius Moore ran a 4.45 last year, just two hundredths of a second slower than Baltimore's Torrey Smith.

Running back Taiwan Jones, who may be the Raiders' starter with Darren McFadden (ankle) and Mike Goodson (ankle) injured, posted a 4.33 in 2010. Even fullback Marcel Reece, who may also probably see carries, is a converted wide receiver who ran a 4.42 at his pro day.

"They all are burners and they all are ready to make plays," safety Bernard Pollard said. "That's kind of scary because you've got three or four receivers who can run that want to catch the ball and embarrass the defense. So we've got to be sound with what we're doing."

The Ravens said the key will be to maintain eye discipline and not get beat on any double moves. They also will likely have safety Ed Reed lurking over the top.

3 Matchups To Watch

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey vs. CB Cary Williams
Williams gave up a 26-yard pass to Cleveland's Josh Gordon last Sunday when he got turned around. If that happens against Heyward-Bey, it could be six points. Heyward-Bey is coming off his best game of the season with five catches for 74 yards.

TE Dennis Pitta vs. S Tyvon Branch
Branch is one of the best cover safeties in the game. Pitta is looking for more opportunities to make the plays Head Coach John Harbaugh wants to see. Pitta may find room to operate in Oakland's zone defense,  but Branch will be nearby and will make underneath passes difficult.

QB Carson Palmer vs. S Ed Reed
Palmer is susceptible to throwing interceptions, and is coming off a three-pick day against Tampa Bay. Reed is fresh off a game in which he could have had three interceptions, but got just one (the 60th of his career). Reed returned a Palmer pick 52 yards for a touchdown at M&T Bank Stadium in 2009.

3 Questions To Answer

Can Ray Rice duplicate Doug Martin's huge day?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie running back Doug Martin rolled for 251 yards and four touchdowns on just 25 carries last week against Oakland's defense. Rice has a very similar size and style of play to Martin. The Ravens said Oakland's main problem was missing tackles, so Rice will be looking to juke or run through some Raiders.

Which Palmer will Ravens see?
The Raiders veteran quarterback has a 9-4 record against the Ravens. He can either go off for huge passing numbers or post multiple interceptions (or both). Will Palmer's strong track record against the Ravens from his days with Cincinnati transfer to Oakland?

Will the Ravens stay hot at home?
The Ravens haven't played at M&T Bank Stadium in nearly a month, dating back to Oct. 14 against Dallas. The offense was extremely hot then, but has since cooled in two road games. While Rice could have a big day, it will also be interesting to see whether Joe Flacco and the passing game can get back on track.

Team Rankings

Total Offense – 346.0 (19)
Rush Offense – 108.3 (16)
Pass Offense – 237.8 (15)
Points Per Game – 24.9 (11)

Total Defense – 386.3 (26)
Rush Defense – 139.5 (28)
Pass Defense – 246.8 (22)
Points Per Game – 22.0 (15)

Total Offense – 358.5 (15)
Rush Offense – 77.3 (31)
Pass Offense – 281.3 (7)
Points Per Game – 21.4 (19)

Total Defense – 369.4 (21)
Rush Defense – 124.1 (21)
Pass Defense – 245.3 (21)
Points Per Game – 28.6 (28t)

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