Archive for January, 2010

Play Like a Raven – Wild Card Round

January 13, 2010


Ray MF’in Rice!

Again justifying his place as namesake of this weekly award, Ray Rice set the tone for the Ravens’ Wild Card victory over the New England Patriots with his 83-yard touchdown on the very first play from scrimmage. For the day, Mighty Mouse had 159 yards on 22 carries and 2 touchdowns.

He wasn’t the only Ray-ven to tear it up, though.

Played Like a Raven – Ray Lewis

Ray Brady

B’More’s original “Ray,” number 52, had himself a day. If Ray Rice set the tone for the offense, Ray Lewis helped set the tone for the defense. With the Ravens already leading 14-0, Lewis picked up his first career postseason sack, a vicious hit on Tom Brady in which he came untouched right through the middle of the Patriots’ offensive front.

Ray ended the day with four solo tackles, but was in on nine more. On one particular play, he came through on a run blitz, was picked up easily by New England, but still managed to get himself back in the play and ultimately was the one to bring down Kevin Faulk after a 7-yard gain.

Lewis played like a man who knows he doesn’t have many chances left at earning a second Lombardi Trophy. He knocked a Tom Brady-led team off for the first time in his career. Hopefully, he will go to Indy this week and play equally inspired football, and knock the Peyton Manning “Monkey” off his back as well.

Did Not Play Like a Raven – Kick Coverage

edgar jones

When you win a road playoff game against 3-time Super Bowl Champs by a 33-14 margin, and the game is never really in doubt, it’s really just nit-picking to find a fault with the effort.

No individual player had a terrible day, nor did any singular unit. Saying that the entire special teams squad “did not Play Like a Raven” would be too harsh, as Matt Katula’s snaps were on-point, which led to a perfect day for Billy Cundiff (2/2 FG, 3/3 XP) and another solid performance by Sam Koch (2 inside the 20). However, the kick coverage teams, on both punts and kickoffs, did not play up to their Top-5 billings (despite a beastly hit by Edgar Jones in the first quarter).

Matt Slater had a 26 yard kickoff return, and Darius Butler a 42 yarder. Butler’s served to set up the Patriots’ only real scoring “drive” of the day (their other touchdown came on the muffed punt that gave them the ball at the Ravens’ 16).

On punts, Julian “I’m the Patriots’ only weapon” Edelman only had one attempt, but on it he manged 28 yards, about 18 of which came when everyone watching was sure the Ravens had managed to wrap him up.

These mistakes didn’t amount to much with the team nursing a two-three TD lead all afternoon. However, giving Peyton Manning short fields on the regular will hardly be a recipe for success this week. Let’s hope the coverage units can get over their Massachusetts hiccup, and return to their dominating ways of the regular season.


Ravens 33 Patriots 14 (The DISMANTLING OF THE PATS' DYNASTY Game)

January 11, 2010


Wes “Tiny Tim” Welker hobbled out to midfield with the captains for the coin toss.

Matt Slater stopped Jalen Parmele in his tracks at the Ravens’ 17 yard line on the opening kickoff.

Those two moments, both occurring prior to about 1:05 PM Eastern Time, would be the last semblance of good feelings for every chowdah-swilling Masshole in attendance at Gillette Stadium on this day.

On the Ravens’ first play from scrimmage, Ray Rice took the handoff on the “slow to, fast through” play, and raced 83 yards to the end zone. The longest play of Mighty Mouse’s young career, and the second longest rush in NFL postseason history, served to set the tone for what was to be a glorious day for the Ravens and B’More. Three plays into the ensuing New England possession, it was Week 4 all over again for Terrell Suggs and Tom Brady, as Sizzle AGAIN stripped the three-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback, this time falling on the ball himself at the Pats’ 17 yard line.

Five plays later, it was Le’Ron “Pain Train” McClain getting into the end zone, and the route was on. Less than five minutes into the game, with the Foxborough crowd still getting situated in their seats, the purple and black led 14-0.

For the swarming Ravens’ defense though, who would have their best game of the season, the turnover party was just getting started. After each squad went 3-and-out (New England’s highlighted by a ferocious Ray Lewis sack, the first of his career in the postseason), the Pats would reach only their own 25 yard line before turning it over once again, this time on a ridiculous “who in the world was he throwing that to?” ball by Tom Brady that was snatched up by Chris Carr.

The Ravens’ methodical ground game would come through once again, turning this Patriots mistake into seven points as well.

Twelve minutes into the game, with Joe Flacco having completed just one pass for 13 yards to that point, the Ravens already found themselves ahead 21-0. Ravens fans buckled down for what looked to likely be a long, LONG, 48 remaining minutes, as we were sure that Brady & Co. would not go quietly, and would muster a valiant comeback.

Such a situation did not even come close to materializing.

When all was said and done, the Ravens had intercepted Tom “Terrific,” who was Tom “Terrible” on this day, three times, and stripped him once. As mentioned, the Ravens’ defense came to play, having easily their most impressive performance of 2009. Brady was sacked three times, New England’s running plays fooled nobody, and the Pats’ go-to wide receiver screen game was completely ineffective thanks to outstanding tacking from the B’More secondary, especially Dominique Foxworth and Chris Carr. Foxworth had his best day as a Raven, leading the team with 8 tackles, most of which were near the line of scrimmage, and holding Randy Moss to just five catches for 48 yards. Carr made several stops in the backfield, and seemingly continues to improve each week since being inserted as a starting cornerback. His only mistakes of the day really weren’t his fault – Tom Zbikowski got in the way of the punt that he muffed, and he simply lost his footing on Pats’ WR Julian Edelman’s second touchdown catch of the day.

Ed Reed and Dawan Landry both had interceptions, and each broke up another pass. It was so bad even FRANK FREAKING WALKER was making plays. No, really. Walker had a direct hand in Landry’s pick, blowing up Ben Watson just as the ball arrived causing it to pop up in the air, and made several strong tackles (of course, he dropped what should have been another interception, just to remind us that he’s still Frank Walker – but overall a very good day by #41.)

All told, New England managed just 196 total yards, went 3/12 on 3rd downs, and scored their fewest points since Week 2 against the Jets.

The Patriots’ defense, which we had been told all week was well equipped to hold down the Ravens’ running attack with defensive tackles Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork returning to the lineup, got pushed around handily by the purple and black offensive heavies. Ravens running backs totaled 46 carries, 229 yards (a 4.98 average), and four touchdowns. Even Joe Flacco got into the act on the ground, scrambling for a key first down in the fourth quarter that set up the Ravens’ final points of the day.

Flacco’s day passing was non-existent, but it didn’t need to be otherwise. His 4/10, 34 yard, 1 Int performance tied Bob Griese of the 1973 Miami Dolphins for fewest passing yards in a Playoff win in the Super Bowl era. The haters will be quick to jump on Joe for these numbers, but pay them no mind. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers may have thrown for 422 yards and 4 touchdowns in the late game Sunday, but all those pretty stats got him nothing more than a one-way ticket to the offseason. If Flacco does his best Trent Dilfer impersonation all the way to a Lombardi Trophy, not a soul in Charm City will complain, I promise you that.

At the end of the day, the Patriots’ dynasty of the 2000s was left in shambles. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, who had never lost a Playoff game at home together, were embarrassed by John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco (ok, moreso Ray Rice, but you get the idea). Much to the chagrin of all the talking heads (none of whom were giving the Ravens a snowball’s chance in hell, all but booking the New York Jets’ tickets to Indianapolis) there will be no Brady-Manning rematch in the AFC Championship and no dimpled chin darling to fawn over in future rounds of the 2009 postseason. Nope, it’s unibrow time, baby!


  • It was the first time an NFL Playoff game had been lost by the Patriots in New England since 1978 (The CBS broadcast decided to break this stat down into days, for some asinine reason – 11,000 or something like that).
  • There is now nary an active quarterback in the NFL with more road Playoff victories than Baltimore’s own number Five. The Ravens also tied the 1970s Dallas Cowboys for most road Playoff wins in one decade (6).
  • The Ravens’ committed only three penalties for a paltry 15 yards, both lows for this flag-filled season (big ups to referee Gene Steratore and his crew, by the way, for actually letting the players decide the game! Is there any way we can reserve him for all Ravens games from now on?)

Next up for our purple heroes is a rematch of the 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff with the Indianapolis Colts. Hopefully the road team will emerge victorious this time around as well.

Pats Fans


January 11, 2010

(You know, like LOLCATS…)

The full game recap is in the works, but in the meantime, let’s have some fun at the Patriots’ expense, shall we?






Thanks to the Baltimore Sun for all the pics.

Wild Card Playoff Preview – Ravens @ Patriots

January 8, 2010

Ravens Pats Playoff

Ravens Pats Stats

For the second time in as many years, the Ravens head on the road for Wild Card weekend to take on the AFC East Champs, who are quarterbacked by the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year. A season ago, it was Chad Pennington and the Miami Dolphins. This time around, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots – a bit of a step up, no?

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were 8-0 in Foxboro this season, and have NEVER lost a home playoff game together.

Whoopdie do.

The past is the past, and as Ray Lewis says, the Ravens aren’t going to play “the mystique of the Patriots,” they are going to play the Patriots. The Patriots, who, by the way, are not the 3 Super Bowls in 4 years team of earlier this decade. Look no further than the fact that they are even playing on Wild Card weekend to prove that they weren’t as dominant in 2009 as they have become accustomed to. Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, and Tedy Bruschi are nowhere to be found on the defense. Their leading receiver, Wes Welker, was injured in Week 17 and will miss the entire postseason. They were only one game better than the Ravens this season, and if Mark Clayton could have held onto that fateful pass, the records of these two teams could easily be reversed.

None of this is to say that the Ravens will go up to Foxboro and make mince meat out of the Pats. Of course not. However, there is more than a glimmer of hope for our purple and black.

Adding to that hope is the fact that the Ravens have played the Patriots extremely close in their last two meetings, only to fall short in the waning seconds. They don’t seem, for instance, to present the kind of match-up problems that the Colts historically have for the Ravens.

Still, the Ravens will likely need a perfect game from all 53 players (and however many coaches) on Sunday to advance to the AFC’s divisional round.

As Drew Forrester points out, Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh will need to be on point.

The running game will be crucial – ball security and yards after contact from Ray Rice and Willis McGahee will go a long way.

The Ravens’ receivers will have to get open, and not have balls bouncing off their hands in critical situations (see: the aforementioned Clayton, Derrick Mason in Pittsburgh).

The pass rush and secondary will need to come together. Without Welker, the Ravens will be able to turn their attention to Randy Moss. Doubling Moss all day will obviously be the way to go, as the Ravens have no defensive backs who can even dream of containing #81 one-on-one. Welker’s replacement though, rookie Julian Edelman, is no slouch. Edelman caught 37 passes for 359 yards and one score this season, and is basically Wes Welker Light. He doesn’t worry me nearly as much as Welker would, but if the Ravens’ corners, especially Dominique Foxworth, have another bad day tackling, the WR screen to Edelman could prove plenty effective for Brady.

Blanket Moss

As far as the pass rush, there have been signs of life recently (3 sacks in Oakland, 4 in Pittsburgh). Bringing down Brady though, is a bit more difficult than tracking down Fat Ben and Ja-suckus Russel. He went down only 16 times in 16 games this season. The key won’t necessarily be sacking him a bunch of times, but forcing him to throw before he is ready, and, hopefully, making those (rumored) injured ribs just a bit more painful. If Brady has time to throw, it won’t matter how many guys the Ravens put on Moss, or how many torn ligaments Patriots receivers have – he will CARVE UP this secondary. If the Pats are facing a 3rd-and-15 or something equally preposterous, and Greg Mattison again decides to bring his patented 3-man rush…well, Ravens fans might as well just turn off our TVs.

All of the Ravens will have to keep their heads in the game and focused to avoid stupid penalties. B’More ended the regular season as the most penalized team in the NFL, showing that through two years of John Harbaugh, the zebras still see Brian Billick’s band of thugs when they see those purple jerseys. Of course, some of the same guys that were getting stupid penalties under Billick are still doing it under Harbaugh, so they are to blame more than the coach is.

Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata, we’re looking at you. There WILL BE a roughing the passer flag on Sunday. Bank on it. When it comes, accept it and move on. Don’t argue about it. Don’t change the way you are playing. Just move on to the next play, and hit him again.

As far as Joe Flacco, well, if Natty Joe’s day resembles in any way the afternoon he had in Oakland, he’d better have his golf clubs ready. Flacco will need to do a much better job of recognizing the blitz, moving in the pocket, and above all, GIVING HIMSELF SOME TIME AT THE LINE. It’s been a season-long issue, so there is really no reason to believe it will be corrected this week, but, when the Ravens’ offense is huddling, there are routinely 5-8 seconds on the play clock by the time they reach the line of scrimmage. Methinks this is another reason that Joe does so much better in the no-huddle – he has TIME to make reads at the line. When the play clock is winding down, you can tell that he doesn’t even scan to see where the pressure is going to come from. Without turning it into a hurry-up (which could hurt the cause of keeping Brady on the sideline as much as possible), Cam Cameron should plan to use plenty of the no-huddle on Sunday.

If the Ravens can put a full game together – control the clock with an effective running game, move the chains on 3rd down, keep Flacco upright, make sure tackles, avoid stupid penalties, be smart with timeouts – there is no reason they can’t go up to New England and keep their season alive.

Brady and Belichick have another gear for the Playoffs. It’s time for Harbaugh and Flacco to prove that they do, too, by taking what has been an underachieving, up-and-down team, and hitting their stride at the perfect time.

Ravens 28 Patriots 24

Brady Without Welker

January 7, 2010


As everyone knows by now, no doubt, little Wes Welker’s season is over. Welker, eerily, was making a cut to try to avoid Bernard Pollard, the same guy who ended Tom Brady’s 2008 season in Week 1, when his knee bent awkwardly. That awkward bend served to injure his knee ligaments to the extent that he will be forced to miss the entire postseason.

Here in B’More, we hardly weep for Welker.

Especially when we consider that Tom Brady’s numbers in 2009 sans Welker were quite pedestrian compared to those games in which #83 was in the lineup.

To whit:

Brady’s 2009 Stats

With Welker (14 games) – 67% completion percentage, 27 TD, 12 INT, 97.7 Passer Rating

Without Welker (2 games) – 54% completion percentage, 1 TD, 1 INT, 70.1 Passer Rating

Sure, two games is a pretty small sample size, and those games were in Weeks 2 and 3, way back when Brady was still seemingly getting his feet under him after coming back from the aforementioned 2008 injury, AND one of them was against the league’s #1 defense (New York Jets) with Darrell Revis draping Randy Moss all day….but, whatever.

No need to let small details like that get in the way of some good, old fashioned delusional confidence.

Dare we say that, Brady without Welker this Sunday is going to resemble…

Starsky without Hutch

Hutch Welkah

Batman without Robin

Robin Welkah

Bart without Milhouse

Milhouse Welkah

Am I saying that Welker’s absence will lead to a Ravens victory in Foxboro?

Well, you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow’s game preview to get my opinion on that, but one thing is for sure – it won’t hurt.

Play Like a Raven – Week 17

January 5, 2010


Ray Rice had a solid, if unspectacular, day, picking up 70 yards on 14 carries, and adding another 19 on four receptions. For the season, Mighty Mouse ended up with 1,339 yards on the ground, a 5.3 average, 702 receiving yards, and 8 total touchdowns. Ray Rice defined “Play Like a Raven” in 2009.

In Week 17, though, he was overshadowed by another Ravens running back.

Played Like a Raven – Willis McGahee


Willis, I gotta say, played like a guy that was auditioning for his next team. It is pretty well understood that McGahee will not likely be a Raven at the start of 2010 training camp, but, hey – if his “proving” of himself for the rest of the NFL can benefit the purple and black like it did Sunday in Oakland, then we certainly shouldn’t complain.

Willis busted out the second 77-yard touchdown of his B’More career (the other being 2008 in Dallas), on a play that featured one of the sickest stiff-arms you will ever see. Raiders safety Hiram Eugene will never live that one down, and the play is sure to be on his “lowlights” reel now and forever. You could almost hear Willis McGahee yelling to Eugene “GET OFF ME,” as he threw him to the turf. Willis appeared for a second to be on the verge of running out of gas before he reached paydirt, but he turned the jets back on at around the 15, and made it to the end zone for his second of three touchdowns on the day.

If Willis can put together a string of performances like that, where it is obvious to all watching that he has easily the freshest legs on the field, it could add a whole new dimension to the Ravens’ already very potent rushing attack, and make them a dangerous playoff team this postseason.

Honorable Mention – Dannell Ellerbe
Ellebe Eyes
McGahee was obviously the star, but we’d be remiss to neglect to mention Ellerbe. The rookie out of Georgia was right in the middle of the defense’s two biggest plays on the day. First, he intercepted JaMarcus Russel as the big dumb QB tried to force the ball to his tight end, and nearly returned it for a touchdown. Then, when Antwan Barnes stripped Russel a few series later, Ellerbe was “Dannelly-on-the-spot,” falling on the ball to effectively seal the Ravens’ playoff berth.

Ellerbe has filled in more than admirably for Tavares Gooden the last few games, and his interception was especially promising to see considering how much trouble the Ravens LBs have been having in coverage lately. Ellerbe has been solid against the run all year; if he can become a competent cover backer, he could easily find himself starting in purple for a long time.

Did Not Play Like a Raven – Joe Flacco


It pains me (and worries me) to saddle Natty Joe with this for the second time in five games. Joe bounced back nicely after the Green Bay debacle, playing well against Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh, but he was ugly to watch in Oakland. His 102 passing yards were the lowest in a single game of his 2-year career, and his 11 completions were the fewest of 2009, tying for second lowest of his career. He looked absolutely flustered and confused by the Raiders pressure and coverages alike. What has been an increasingly-concerning season-long issue of lack of pocket presence came to a head on one particular play where he scrambled around and then ran a full yard past the line of scrimmage before overthrowing Ray Rice in the end zone. The guy just seems to have no clue where he is, or what is going on around him in the pocket. Joe absorbed four more sacks, and that is now 10 in the past three games – hardly a trend you want your offense to be on headed into the playoffs.

Flacco hardly lit the world on fire during his first stint in the postseason – his numbers for the three playoff games in 2008:

33-75, 44%, 437 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT, 50.8 Rating.

With the Ravens’ defense not playing at the level they were a year ago, Flacco’s numbers will undoubtedly have to improve this January for the Ravens to stand any chance. With Ray Rice and now Willis McGahee competently backing him up, it should take a lot of the pressure off Joe, and allow him to return to his cool, calm, efficient ways.

Let’s hope so, anyway.

Just for Fun

January 4, 2010

Eliminate Steelers

Ya damn right they did.

Drink it up, Purple faithful.

Source: MSN

Ravens 21 Raiders 13 (The WATCHU TALKIN' 'BOUT, WILLIS? Game)

January 3, 2010

Willis Raiders

It wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure, but the end result of Sunday’s game in Oakland is inarguable: The Baltimore Ravens are IN the playoffs for the second consecutive season. That’s now 2/2 for John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco, just the second time in Ravens history that they have advanced to the postseason in consecutive years. Oh, and, as an added bonus, thanks to the Houston Texans’ comeback win over New England earlier in the day, the Ravens were able to make sure that those scallywag luck-meister Shittsburgh Squealers are OUT of the playoffs. That’s right, nary a stupid yellow rag to be seen for the next 9 months. A good day, for sure.

The Ravens won this game on the legs of Willis McGahee, who turned in a career day. His 10 carry, 167 yard, 3 TD performance was arguably the best game yet in his seven seasons. The three touchdowns were his most since scoring four in Seattle in November of 2004, and the 167 yards were his most ever. His 77-yard touchdown in the second quarter was a thing of beauty, a perfect example of power and speed, as he used a devastating stiff-arm in the open field to beat the only defender that had a chance to stop him, then raced away from the pursuit, and his 36-yard scamper on 3rd-and-4 with 2:43 to go in the game allowed the Ravens to kill the clock and seal the win. There is little question about who “Played Like a Raven” in Week 17.

McGahee’s effort overshadowed another solid, if unspectacular, day from Ray Rice, who managed 70 yards on 14 carries, and added 19 yards on four receptions. Rice never seemed to find much of a rhythm, though, and uncharacteristically dropped a pass out of the backfield. Although Phil Simms and Jim Nance never made mention of it, Rice may have also been a bit nicked up at times during the game, as we saw a lot more of Willis McGahee outside of the red zone than usual, even before he demonstrated that he had came to Oakland to play.

And it was a good thing that the Ravens’ ground game was clicking on all cylinders, because the passing game…


Ew, man, was the Ravens passing “attack” ugly in Oakland. Flacco was 11/19 for 102 yards, and was sacked four times.

Ravens tight ends and wideouts totaled 6 catches for 77 yards. Ugh.

Yardage-wise, it was easily Flacco’s worst game of 2009, and he failed to throw a touchdown pass for just the fourth time in his sophomore campaign, and the first time since Week 11 against Indy. His pocket presence was absolutely atrocious – he was regularly flushed, tucked the ball and took a sack after his first read was covered, and at one point was even penalized for an illegal forward pass, after he ran past the line of scrimmage before overthrowing Ray Rice in the end zone. It’s a toss-up between this game and the Green Bay game for Joe’s worst of the season. If there is any solace to take, it is that after the Green Bay game, he bounced back great for the next three straight contests. If he can bounce back strongly for the next three…well, Miami awaits.

Unfortunately, the Raiders may have given defensive genius Bill Belichick, head coach of the Ravens’ next opponent, the New England Patriots, a blueprint for beating Joe Flacco. It was an awful, awful day for #5, and if he plays like that in the postseason, the Ravens will quickly be playing golf as a team.

The defense lucked out in Oakland as well. If Charlie Frye had played the entire game, the Ravens would very likely be packing up their lockers in Owings Mills this week. Frye torched the Ravens in the first half, to the tune of 18/25 180 yards 1 TD. That’s right, CHARLIE FREAKIN’ FRYE had nearly twice the passing yards and completions as Joe Flacco did all day, in one half of play. Greg Mattison, despite all the praise that must be thrown his way for making this rag-tag bunch into a Top-5 defense, still inexplicably opts to rush just three on 3rd-and-long situations, and even a quarterback as terrible as JaMarcus Russel can convert in that situation (as he did on 3rd-and-15 in the 3rd quarter). The Raiders chose to pick on Ray Lewis and Chris Carr all afternoon. Carr, for his part, was at least solid in tackling. Lewis, however, should be nothing but a blitzer on passing situations at this point. When Ray-Ray blitzes, good things seem to happen. When he tries to cover a talented tight end down the slot…not so much (as evidenced by Zach Miller’s 2nd-quarter TD reception).

Somehow, Frank Walker is still on the team. On one play, Walker could have broken up a pass from Russel, had he just, oh, I don’t know, STUCK HIS ARMS OUT. Instead, #41 was running around like his hands are tied behind his back, and the pass was completed. Of course, he was also flagged for illegal contact at one point during the game. STOP PLAYING FRANK WALKER!

Seriously, John (Greg, Ozzie, WHOEVER), Corey Ivy has to be a better option at this point. At least he will TRY.

The Ravens’ special teams were again uneven. Jalen Parmele had a strong day returning kicks, but there was another holding penalty that negated a big punt return by Carr, and Matt Katula’s snaps were again all over the place. The bad snaps are good for pretty much one missed FG per game now, not a good trend to be on going into the Playoffs, where every mistake is magnified. If a playoff game comes down to a late FG, who among us is confident in the Katula-Koch-Cundiff trio, given their recent struggles?

The Ravens are playing far-from-perfect football right now, but we have all week to discuss their shortcomings. Perhaps it hints to just how talented of a team they are that, despite the issues, they are among just 12 teams that will be playing after this week. Let’s take this time to simply celebrate and enjoy another postseason berth.

My celebration recommendations: A glass of this, and one of these.

Ravens (8-7) @ Raiders (5-10)

January 3, 2010

ravens raiders

raider stats

The Playoffs start in Week 17 in Oakland for the Ravens. Win, and they advance to the postseason. Lose, and they are playing golf next weekend, regardless of what the host of other AFC Playoff contenders do. It’s a very cut-and-dry scenario, but one that has Ravens fans a bit uneasy, despite the seemingly impotent opponent.

Oakland has some wins against very good teams on their resume this year (Philadelphia, Cincinnati, @ Pittsburgh, Denver), while they have also lost against some scrubs (Kansas City, Washington, Cleveland). You never know what you are going to get from the Raiders week in and week out. A week after beating the Eagles at home, they lost to the Jets 38-0 in the Black Hole. After winning at Heinz Field, they got smacked around by the Redskins 34-13. They have been as schizophrenic a team as their owner, Al Davis, is crazy.

What the Ravens need to do is jump out to an early double digit lead. The Raiders would be perfectly happy to be talking vacation plans, rather than defensive plans, by halftime – they just need a push in the right direction. Fortunately, for all the faults that you can find with John Harbaugh’s teams over his first two years as a head coach, “plays down to lesser opponents” is not one of them. Scoring early and often, a la the Lions and Bears games last month, will have Oakland throwing in the towel quickly. Instead of looking at polaroids from the game on the bench, they’ll be sharing vacation brochures.

The formula to a big purple win is going to be lots and lots of Ray Rice. Oakland is 29th in the NFL against the run, giving up nearly 150 yards per game. Last week, Cleveland’s Jerome Harrison put up 148. Rice had plenty of success against Pittsburghs #1 run defense, and should find plenty of holes on Sunday. Rice, however, needs to focus on ball security, as he has now fumbled in three of the last four games, after not fumbling at all in his rookie season, or for the first 12 games of 2009.

Helping open holes for Rice and protect Joe Flacco’s back will once again be Jared Gaither, who is set to return to the lineup. Gaither will have to deal with defensive end Greg Ellis, who leads the team with seven sacks. Michael Oher will go back to the right side, where he will spend a good part of his day matched up against former New England Patriot Richard Seymour. If the line can protect Flacco adequately, he will still likely have to spread the ball around more than he has lately. Last week, he never even looked toward Mark Clayton, and Todd Heap, Kelley Washington, Ray Rice, Demetrius Williams, and Le’Ron McClain had just six catches combined between the five of them. The reason for this is that Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha, probably the second best corner in the league, is likely to be shadowing Derrick Mason all over the field. If Joe sees #21 on #85, his best bet is going to be to look to the other side of the field.

On offense, the Raiders are putting their hopes in the hands of quarterback Charlie Frye, as their best option, Bruce Gradkowski, is out with knee problems. Frye, whom Ravens fans should remember from his days in Cleveland, has been terrible in 2009. In two starts, he has completed 56% of his passes for 401 yards, 0 TD, 4 INT, and a passer rating of 49.2. The Ravens expect to get Ed Reed back for a handful of plays Sunday afternoon, and the Ravens secondary, which has improved steadily this season, shouldn’t have much trouble with Frye and the very average Oakland receiving corps.

Oakland’s running game is really the only area where they can hurt the Ravens. Running back Michael Bush averages 5.1 yards per carry, and had 133 yards against Denver two weeks ago. Their other most productive runner, Justin Fargas, is not expected to play. Second year runner Darren McFadden, despite having the edge on Ray Rice in nicknames (RUN DMC vs. “to be decided”), is no Ray Rice on the field. The Ravens boast the league’s #1 yards-per-carry defense, and should be able to bottle up Bush without too much trouble. That double digit lead mentioned earlier will be another weapon in limiting the effectiveness of the Raiders’ runners.

Win = In.

Ravens 27 Raiders 10