Can Ravens Win on West Coast? 41 Ravens-Raiders Game Predictions
This game became infinitely more difficult to predict when the Raiders announced that quarterback Derek Carr (back) won't play.
That leaves the analysts pondering whether backup EJ Manuel starting is enough to predict a Ravens victory, or if there are still too many variables working against Baltimore.
No matter who is Oakland's starting quarterback, it won't affect the Ravens' third-worst (tied) ranked offense (269.8 yards per game), worst passing offense (142.5 passing yards per game) and second-worst (tied) offense in scoring (15 points per game).
"Derek Carr being out levels the playing field a bit, but there's still the matter of stopping the run, pressuring EJ Manuel and keeping Khalil Mack from wrecking Joe Flacco," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "The Ravens playing out West hasn't been a good formula either."
The Ravens once boasted a solid road record, including winning playoff games away from M&T Bank Stadium, but more recently they've dipped. Over the last two years, Baltimore is 4-12 on the road and lost all three of its West Coast trips in 2015 (there were none last year).
Still, there's another way some pundits are looking at this game that gives Baltimore an edge.
"I have faith that Dean Pees and the Ravens defense will confuse Manuel enough to force some mistakes," Bleacher Report's Chris Simms wrote.
Whatever the final result, it will have a major impact on the Ravens (2-2) and Raiders (2-2), who both want to turn things around after their two-game losing skids.
According to ESPN's Football Power Index, this is the "high-leverage game of the week," which means the result will have the greatest impact on the teams' playoff chances. The final outcome will have a 22 percent change on the Ravens' playoff hopes, and 20 percent on the Raiders.
Of the 41 experts below, only 15 are predicting a Ravens victory.
Derek Carr Returned to Practice Thursday
Was this supposed to happen already?
Despite suffering a transverse process fracture Sunday, Carr made a surprise appearance at the Raiders practice Thursday. He was listed as a limited participant, but he was throwing passes.
The Raiders obviously want their franchise quarterback to return to game action as soon as possible, and this is a sign that they might not have to wait too long. At this point, it still doesn't appear Carr will be ready for this Sunday, however. Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio said he'd miss at least two weeks.
"Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is still not quite ready to get back on the playing field, but that doesn't mean he's missing workouts," NFL.com's Conor Orr wrote. "Manuel is expected to be under center for this weekend's tilt against the Ravens with 2016 draftee Connor Cook sitting at third string."
Clarifying Confusion on Jimmy Smith
Ravens top cornerback Jimmy Smith's status for Sunday is still unclear as he has missed the last two days of practice with an Achilles injury.
But, as I highlighted in yesterday's LFW, there was some confusion as to why he was absent Wednesday. Zrebiec reported that Smith missed practice for personal reasons, but then he was listed as out because of the Achilles.
Zrebiec followed up yesterday to explain what happened.
While Smith missed his second practice Thursday, starting nickelback Lardarius Webb returned after sitting Wednesday. If Smith can't play, first-round rookie Marlon Humphrey is confident he could start.
Alex Collins Says Fumbling Is a Fixable Problem
The Ravens have a decision to make with running back Alex Collins.
How long of a leash should they give him after fumbling twice in 25 carries? Usually that sends a running back to the doghouse, but Collins has been the offense's most explosive weapon up to this point. Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday the leash isn't long, but the Ravens are working with him on developing techniques and a mindset to fix the problem.
Collins insists that the issue can be corrected, which he says he will do, so it doesn't hurt his NFL career.
"Most definitely it's something that's fixable," Collins told The Sun's Childs Walker. "It's just mostly awareness. As a running back, you can't make it in this league if you don't have good ball security, and that's the thing. Every running back has great ball security until they're unaware of where the defense is coming from. That's the main reason why it happens — they hit you when you least expect it. So the easiest way to fix it is just to be 100 percent aware of the ball at all times."
If you can't tell in the video to the right, I fall on the side of continuing to feed Collins while working with him on getting those turnover numbers down. It's just too hard to put the most explosive player on the sideline while the offense struggles.
Scouting Report: Who Has the Edge?
As he does every week, Zrebiec offered a more detailed scouting report of this week's matchup, comparing both teams' offensive and defensive passing and rushing games, special teams and intangibles.
Zrebiec is predicting a 23-13 win for the Raiders because of the Ravens' struggles on offense and on the road.
"Quarterback Joe Flacco is facing more criticism than perhaps ever before after consecutive dreadful performances by him and the offense. … The Raiders go from Derek Carr, a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback regarded as one of the league's best, to EJ Manuel who hasn't won a start since 2014. Manuel is bigger and more mobile than Carr, but the Ravens don't expect Oakland's offense to change too much."
Edge = Raiders
"The Ravens continue to work with young running back Alex Collins on his ball security, but they've decided for now that his upside and elusiveness makes it worth dealing with the fumbling risks he brings. … With a big, touted offensive line and a power back in Marshawn Lynch, the Raiders have the makings of a dominant running game. It hasn't happened yet."
Edge = Raiders
"With stud defensive tackle Brandon Williams sidelined with a foot injury, the Ravens have allowed 339 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns the past two weeks. … Just like last year, Oakland is having problems stopping the run."
Edge = Even
"The Ravens have gotten superb cornerback play from Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey. … The Raiders' pass rush will present numerous problems for a much-maligned Ravens front."
Edge = Ravens
- "If you were looking for some solutions from offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, you would be sorely disappointed. During Thursday's media session, Mornhinweg didn't directly answer many of the questions about his struggling quarterback and offense," writes ESPN. "Mornhinweg has been known to sidestep questions and not give much details since taking over for Marc Trestman as the team's offensive coordinator last October." [ESPN]