Ravens Vs. Raiders

Nfl Week 15

Today, 4:05 P.m., Network Associates Coliseum, Oakland, Calif., Ch. 13

December 14, 2003|By JAMISON HENSLEY

SCOUTING REPORT

Ravens run offense vs. Raiders run defense -- RAVENS

This is the game's biggest mismatch. Jamal Lewis leads the league in rushing and Oakland ranks second-to-last in run defense. How soft is the Raiders' depleted front seven? Opponents are averaging 34 carries and 149.4 yards rushing per game. Oakland, which allowed 106 yards to Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis on Sunday, may need to commit nine players in the box against Lewis. The league's leading rusher is coming off an 180-yard game, his best effort since setting the NFL's single-game record in Week 2.

Ravens pass offense vs. Raiders pass defense -- EVEN

The only strong point in Oakland's defense is its cornerbacks. Phillip Buchanon and Charles Woodson are one of the best cover tandems in the game and are the main reason teams have thrown a total of 48 times against the Raiders the past two weeks. Since either one can lock down receiver Marcus Robinson, tight end Todd Heap should have a more prominent role in the game plan despite averaging two catches over his past three games. After strong back-to-back starts, quarterback Anthony Wright regressed last Sunday with eight completions and two interceptions.

Raiders run offense vs. Ravens run defense -- RAVENS

Over the past three weeks, the Ravens have been strong against Cincinnati's Corey Dillon (45 yards), San Francisco's Kevan Barlow (48) and Garrison Hearst (47), and Seattle's Shaun Alexander (72). They give up 3.6 yards per carry, which is sixth best in the league. Oakland's offensive line is battered, with right guard Mo Collins (knee) and center Barret Robbins (knee) out and starting right tackle Lincoln Kennedy (concussion) at less than full strength. At running back, Tyrone Wheatley and Charlie Garner split time, but Wheatley has been the hotter option, averaging 82.8 rushing yards over his past five games.

Raiders pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense -- RAVENS

Rick Mirer, the Raiders' third starting quarterback of the season, has a reputation for holding the ball too long while waiting for crossing routes, which could spell trouble against the Ravens. In the past three games, the Ravens have averaged one sack every 10 pass plays. Mirer is coming off his worst game, recording a 14.6 quarterback rating against the Steelers. The Raiders converted just one of 12 third downs last week. The Ravens rank third in the league in third-down efficiency for a defense (30.5 percent). With Gary Baxter starting at cornerback, the Ravens are 4-1 this season.

Special teams -- RAVENS

The Raiders rank in the bottom three of the NFL in punt and kickoff coverage. Their kickoff return team also has struggled and Oakland may be about to try a fourth kickoff return specialist this week in Ron Stone. Meanwhile, the Ravens win the field-position battle on a weekly basis. Ravens kicker Matt Stover has hit 19 straight field goals, and the Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski has missed only once inside 52 yards. Ravens return specialist Lamont Brightful (knee) won't be running at full speed.

Intangibles -- RAVENS

These are two teams headed in opposite directions, with the Ravens having won three straight and the Raiders having lost three straight. The Ravens haven't won a road game since Oct. 12 but they won't face much resistance in what is expected to be a less-than-full stadium. Injuries and turmoil have taken their toll on Oakland, which has 11 players on injured reserve and has seen much friction between the players and coach Bill Callahan.

Prediction -- RAVENS

Oakland is a shadow of last year's Super Bowl team, and Jamal Lewis is driving the Ravens to the division title. Another monster game by the league's leading rusher will move the Ravens one step closer to the playoffs and the Raiders closer to combustion. Ravens, 27-10.

GAME FACTS

Records

Ravens 8-5 Raiders 3-10

Line

Ravens by 6 1/2

Vs. spread

Ravens 8-4-1 Raiders 2-10-1

Series

Ravens lead 3-0

Last meeting

Ravens won, 16-3, on Jan. 14, 2001, in Oakland in AFC title game.

NFL rankings

Ravens offense: Overall (22), rush (2), pass (32).

Ravens defense: Overall (4), rush (10), pass (4).

Raiders offense: Overall (24), rush (16), pass (25).

Raiders defense: Overall (29), rush (31), pass (21).

Quick hits

Ravens RB Jamal Lewis leads the NFL with 1,622 yards rushing and must average 126 per game to reach 2,000.

Ravens LB Ray Lewis has an interception in five of the past seven games.

Raiders WR Jerry Rice has made a catch in an NFL-record 269 consecutive games.

Raiders WR Tim Brown needs one touchdown catch to become the fourth player in NFL history with 100.

Injuries

RAVENS: Out: LB Adalius Thomas (elbow). Questionable: QB Kyle Boller (leg); CB Lamont Brightful (knee); OT Orlando Brown (chest); CB Cornell Brown (knee); LB Ray Lewis (shoulder); RB Jamal Lewis (wrist); RB Alan Ricard (ankle).

RAIDERS: Out: G Mo Collins (knee); C Barret Robbins (knee). Doubtful: DT Sean Gilbert (groin). Probable: OT Lincoln Kennedy (concussion).

STARTING LINEUPS

Ravens offense

WR 87 Marcus Robinson

LT 75 Jonathan Ogden

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