First of all, as sad is it was to see Mike Nolan get axed (because we all like Mike Nolan around here), congratulations to Mike Singletary for taking over the head coaching job in San Francisco. I am friends with his daughter Kristen through an ex-girlfriend and several other friends who attended St. Timothy’s, all of whom graduated in 2005. So, I am very happy for Kristen, Big Mike, and the rest of the Singletary family.
On to the Ravens/Raiders match-up…
There’s no such thing as a guaranteed win in the NFL, as we all saw last year when the Ravens were embarrassed by the Miami Dolphins, but this is as close as it gets.
The Raiders are ranked near the bottom in every defensive category. Cam Cameron needs to exploit that aspect by establishing a tough running game early. I see him continuing to use play-action to freeze the defense and, as I mentioned in my blog last week, look for more Ray Rice.
Offensively, the Raiders are very effective running the ball with Darren McFadden and Justin Fargas. But, as we all know, NOBODY runs on the Ravens.
JaMarcus Russell is regressing; he’s still making the same mistakes he did last season as a rookie. The Ravens are licking their chops, as they get a chance to expose a weak offensive line (as far as pass protection is concerned).
The Ravens need to win this game on Sunday to improve to 4-3 on the season, especially considering the circumstances. This will be only one of two games the Ravens will play at home over a 2 month span. The other home game is against the Eagles.
I’d like to preface what I’m about to say with this statement: I made a lot of life-long friendships at Washington College with Eagles fans, and most of them were on the swim team with me in Chestertown, MD. I’m sure a few of them will be in my wedding some day…
But I freakin’ hate the Eagles. More on that in a few weeks…
It’s also important to remember that this is the “soft” part of the Ravens schedule. Including the win against Miami last week, it is vital for the Ravens to win at least 3 of these next 4 games (@ Miami, vs. Oakland, @ Cleveland, @ Houston) to remain in the playoff picture in the AFC. Especially considering that the Steelers look like rock stars throughout the first 6 weeks. Pittsburgh just keeps finding ways to win, and don’t look now, but they only have one loss. It may not be a race to 9 wins in the AFC North after all…the Ravens may have to fight for a wild cart spot.
My prediction: I really don’t see the Ravens losing this one because, frankly, they can’t afford to do so. At home against a team that has already fired their head coach, and considering all the issues west coast teams are having when trekking east this year, I’m taking Baltimore this week.
Ravens – 27
Raiders – 6
Pivotal Match-Up: Joe Flacco vs. Oakland Defense. If the Ravens somehow lose this game, Flacco will be a big reason why.
Where it could all go wrong: Lots of turnovers; Ravens defense can’t stop the run; JaMarcus Russel has a big game and exploits our depleted secondary; the laws of gravity and thermodynamics are reversed.
Surprising statistic: As you can see below, we have yet to have a single person pick the exact score (myself included, although I was awfully close last week and in the Cleveland game). Where’s Nostradamus when you need him?
Last Week’s winner: Nestminder picked a 20-13 Ravens victory and Polostat was a close second. My pick: 24-16 Ravens. Actual score: 27-13 Ravens.
Week 6 winner: Johnny Rocket correctly picked against the Ravens, per usual, predicting a 32-8 Colts victory. My pick: 28-23 Colts. Actual score: 31-3 Colts.
Week 5 winner: Columbia Ken picked the closest score, predicting a 17-13 Titans victory. My pick: 17-9 Ravens. Actual score: 13-10 Titans
Week 4 winner: Jon R. reluctantly picked a 24-20 win for the Steelers. My pick: 13-10 Ravens. Actual score: 23-20 Steelers (OT)
Week 3 winner: EazyE picked a 23-13 win for the Ravens vs. Cleveland. My pick: 23-13 Ravens. Actual score: 24-10 Ravens.
What are your predictions this week?