1. Can the Ravens shut down the Raiders running game?
The Raiders don't have much explosiveness in their running game. Rookie Darren McFadden has been dealing with a lingering turf toe injury which has curtailed his effectiveness and starter Justin Fargas isn't breaking off many big runs after having many good ones last year. Michael Bush isn't close to the runner he was before breaking his foot during this final collegiate season.
2. Do you think Joe Flacco is figuring things out or are more growing pains coming up today against the Raiders' blitz?
He just needs to make better or more consistent decisions with the football. The thing is that the Raiders run a similar scheme to what the Ravens have on defense. The difference is the Raiders play more 4-3 than 3-4.
3. Who do you think will win this game and why?
Oakland will have problems scoring and look for the Ravens do dominate time of possession in this game. 20-6, Baltimore.
4. What's your take on Chris McAlister, his issues and how he's butting heads with the coaching staff?
Team sources say both sides have been simmering on issues actually go back to training camp so I'm not so sure that these recent developments are something new.
Both sides clearly need to get on the same page. This is a team that is trying to get back on their feet after a disastrous season in 2007 and they need to lean on the veterans for leadership.
McAlister, who turns 32 in June, has a very high cap number for next season of close to $11 million. It's hard to see him coming back next season without taking a major paycut. Because of injury issues the last few years, he's clearly not the same player he once was.
5. Do you think the Ravens will be able to get JaMarcus Russell on the ground?
They shouldn't have a problem creating pressure in this matchup. The Raiders have a below average offensive line and defensive coordinator Rex Ryan will be able to create confusion no matter how many players he sends to the quarterback.
6. What makes Sam Koch all of a sudden one of the best punters?
If you recall, many didn't think they would be able to recover from losing Dave Zastudil but Koch has made many forget about him.
Koch is getting tremendous distance on his punts and the fact that his net average is close to 43 yards is quite amazing. When you can increase your net average by almost seven yards from the previous season, that's saying something.
7. Can the Ravens throw on DeAngelo Hall and Nmandi Asomugha?
Teams have been going after Hall most of the season with very solid success so when the Ravens throw it, I'd imagine they'll look his way. But the fact that their top-three receivers are hurt could force them to run the ball even more than usual.
8. Do you think kicker Matt Stover has it figured out or do you think he's still shaky?
The thing is he's only had 10 FG attempts so it's hard to really make a hard judgement on him at this point. But I'm also not sure if he's the same as he was a few years ago.
9. Do you see Rex Ryan getting a head coaching job?
Yes, he probably would have gotten the Atlanta Falcons head job had Mike Smith not gotten it.
Ryan has been in the league a long time and is certainly capable of being a head coach. While he's hard on the players at times, they really respect him.
10. Do you think John Harbaugh will win over the locker room or will a few bad apples derail his makeover of the Ravens' roster?
It's an ongoing process when you're a new head coach and he's slowly but surely making his presence known. I think you may see some changes next year with some of the veterans who the coaches feel that aren't worth keeping.
11. What do you think about why they're not throwing to tight end Todd Heap?
I'm told that Heap ran the wrong route on the pass that just missed him in the end zone last week. I think the offensive line was actually very good last week so that could continue which means they could get Heap out to catch more passes going forward.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron told me in training camp that tight ends are a big part of his scheme so Heap could start to be productive soon.
12. What's your take on Fabian Washington, who's starting against his old team today?
He was drafted for his speed and developmental cover skills. But that has essentially been the issue. His cover skills never got even with his speed. I think the other problem is he's been hurt for several weeks so we're not able to see him healthy enough to show what he can do.
13. What's something about the Ravens that may surprise people?
If they can get Demetrius Williams healthy for a change, they could actually have a much-improved passing game. Williams is their lone deep threat and the scheme is based on power running and deep passing.
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