Last week, the Ravens came away with yet another close win, defeating the Browns in Cleveland, 25-15. John Harbaugh has not lost to the Browns yet in his career with the Ravens, who have now won 10 consecutive games against Cleveland. At the beginning of the game, it looked as if the Ravens were headed for the blowout win they desperately needed. On their first drive they drove down the length of the field, finishing the drive off with a Ray Rice touchdown run. After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Ravens drove down again, this time with rookie Bernard Pierce getting in the end zone for the first TD of his career. But the Ravens would not get back on the board again until the fourth quarter. Browns K Phil Dawson notched five consecutive field goals, ranging from the beginning of the second quarter to the middle of the fourth, ultimately giving the Browns a 15-14 lead with just under nine minutes remaining. The struggling Ravens offense, incapable of getting anything going, finally got the message and woke up. A drive that started with a big pass play to Anquan Boldin finished when Flacco found Torrey Smith, who turned away from his man and found the end zone. The Ravens would attempt to go for two, and on a smart audible called by Flacco, Boldin ended up wide open in the back of the end zone, giving the Ravens a 22-15 lead. The Browns would try to come back but an incomplete pass on fourth down gave the Ravens the ball back with great field position, helping to seal a Ravens victory.
Player of the Game: Ravens RB Ray Rice-98 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD
Key to the Win: As uncomfortably close as this game was, Ravens fans can find some solace in the fact that the Browns never reached the end zone. A Browns touchdown was called back, but the Ravens defense came up with some big stops in the red zone, keeping the team in the game. The offense disappeared in the middle of the game, but executed well in the beginning and the end to get the win.
On Sunday, the Ravens will host the 3-5 Oakland Raiders in Baltimore in the team's first home game in a month. The Raiders lost a shootout at home last week against the Buccaneers, surrendering over 250 rushing yards to rookie Doug Martin. But the Raiders wounds from that loss surpass the game itself. The Raiders' biggest offensive playmaker, RB Darren McFadden, went down with a high ankle sprain and will miss this Sunday's game. Backup RB Mike Goodson will also miss the game with an ankle injury, leaving 3rd-stringer Marcel Reese to handle the duties in the backfield along with rookie Taiwan Jones. For a Ravens run defense that is now ranked 28th in the NFL, this could either be a morale-boosting performance, or an embarrassing loss of confidence and enthusiasm. If this defense can't stop a 3rd-stringer, we're in some serious trouble. Raiders QB Carson Palmer is no foreigner to playing in Baltimore against the Ravens. The former Bengals QB has had great success against the Ravens, but he'll be playing with a different group of guys Sunday than he's played with in previous years. His weapons with the Bengals were far greater than what he'll have to work with on Sunday. One of his biggest targets is former Maryland WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, who has reached the end zone twice this season. The Raiders are also dealing with injuries on the defensive side. DE Richard Seymour, a staple on the defensive line, has been ruled out of this week's game with a hamstring injury. The Raiders defense has been struggling as it is, giving up an average of 28.6 points per game. Expect the Ravens to use a heavy dose of the no-huddle offense to wear down the Raiders defense and put up some quick points. Also, keep in mind that east coast teams have unprecedented success when hosting west coast teams at 1 PM. Just another small advantage the Ravens will hold come Sunday afternoon.
Prediction: There is definitely a formula for success for the Ravens this week, but executing it is another issue altogether. The Ravens need to take advantage of the lack of a strong Raiders running game. Since they will be relying heavily on the passing game, the defense needs to put constant pressure on Carson Palmer, even if it just means a hand in his face. On offense, it means mixing up play calls and making sure you get first downs. I think the Ravens will put it all together this week, getting a much-needed 27-16 win.
Key Matchups for Raiders at Ravens
Ravens CB Cary Williams vs. Raiders WR Denarius Moore Edge: Moore
Analysis: Moore is a speedy, scrappy receiver that could challenge Williams, who has trouble with those types of receivers. He will need to keep up with and contain Moore to win this matchup.
Ravens S Ed Reed vs. Raiders QB Carson Palmer Edge: Reed
Analysis: This is a classic AFC North matchup that brings back memories on both sides. These two guys have had plenty of back-and-forths when they played each other twice a year. Palmer's lack of targets in Oakland could put a damper on a great reminder of days gone by.
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Raiders LB Rolando McClain Edge: Rice
Analysis: Rice is just too fast and too agile for McClain to keep up with. This is a matchup the Ravens will surely take advantage of.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Raiders S Michael Huff Edge: Flacco
Analysis: Flacco could have a lot of fun playing around with Huff all afternoon. Expect play-fakes to dictate the winner of this one.
DE Pernell McPhee-Thigh-OUT
DT Haloti Ngata-Shoulder-QST
G Bobbie Williams-Knee-QST
G Marshal Yanda-Ankle-QST
RB Darren McFadden-Ankle-OUT
RB Mike Goodson-Ankle-OUT
CB Shawntae Spencer-Foot-OUT
DT Richard Seymour-Hamstring-OUT
T Khalif Barnes-Groin-QST
K Sebastian Janikowski-Left Groin-PRB
AFC North Standings
Team W L
Ravens 6 2
Steelers 5 3
Bengals 3 5
Browns 2 7
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and go Ravens!