Baltimore Ravens' scouting report

NICKEL PACKAGE   1.Will the Baltimore Ravens take care of business today It's inconceivable to fathom that the Ravens (8-7) might overlook the Oakland Raiders (5-10) and lose their first game to a team with a losing record this season. Not with a playoff berth at stake.

Not with how they've manhandled teams like the Raiders recently, including lopsided victories over the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions. The Ravens have vowed that they're taking the Raiders extremely seriously, especially in light of their proven ability to upset opponents like the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers. This shapes up as a favorable matchup for the Ravens in several areas, but stranger things have happened than an NFL team losing a game it's expected to win.  

2. Will the Ravens' defense shut down the Raiders' running game?
The Raiders' passing game is totally ineffectual. They have the second-worst passing attack in the league. So, running the football is pretty much their only option. The Raiders rank 18th at running the ball, averaging 110 yards per game. The Ravens counter with the sixth-ranked run defense, allowing just 96.1 yards per contest. In particular, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is hard to move at the line of scrimmage.  

3. Will the Ravens build a lead?
The Raiders are a strong second half team, so it's imperative that the Ravens build a commanding lead and finish them off. Oakland has outscored teams 136-80 after halftime this season. The Ravens would like to enjoy the luxury of resting starters for the playoffs in the second half.

  4. Will the Ravens avoid the penalty bug?
Leading the NFL in penalty yardage, the Ravens can't afford another meltdown like the one they experienced last week. It's worth noting that the Ravens are 1-4 this season when penalized at least nine times. The Ravens have to maintain their composure against a Raiders squad accused of illegal tactics.  

5. Will tight end Todd Heap be a big factor?
Heap has caught four touchdowns in the past two games, scoring multiple touchdowns in consecutive games for the first time in his career. Watch for the Ravens to isolate Heap in single coverage by splitting him out wide to use his size and athleticism to full advantage.

KEY MATCHUP
Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Oakland Raiders front seven

Rice has emerged as a dynamic threat this season with 1,269 rushing yards and seven touchdown runs while also leading the Ravens with 74 receptions for 683 yards and one score. He's coming off a 141-yard game against the Pittsburgh Steelers' top-ranked rushing defense. The Raiders aren't in that category at all. They rank 29th against the run and have surrendered 21 rushing touchdowns. Rice should be able to find some nice running lanes against this defense that only seems to do one thing well: rush the passer. He should also be a factor as a checkdown option on screens. Raiders middle linebacker Kirk Morrison may not be quick enough to stay with Rice in the open field.  

KEY MATCHUP
Baltimore Ravens KR Jalen Parmele vs. Oakland Raiders special teams

Parmele had big cleats to fill last week during his NFL debut as a kickoff returner. He was replacing rookie Lardarius Webb, who returned a kickoff for a touchdown earlier this season against the Denver Broncos. And it was Parmele's first game returning kicks since his senior year at Toledo where he averaged 29 yards and had an 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. During a 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Parmele provided excellent field position. He averaged 29 yards on five kickoff returns, including a 49-yard return. The Raiders rank 29th in kickoff coverage, so this game sets up well for Parmele again.

THREE DOWNS WITH ...
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason

1.On if there's any way the Ravens overlook Oakland: "Nope. Even if we were not in this circumstance we wouldn't overlook the Raiders. They're a very good team. Obviously, they're very good on defense. On offense, they've been through their quarterback shuffle.  

" I think they're on their third quarterback now, but they're still playing good. They've beaten some very good teams. So, whether we were in this situation or not, we would not overlook a very good Oakland team, because they've beaten some pretty good teams."  

2. On beating teams with losing records: "We prepare each week as if it's a big game regardless of who we're playing or the opponent's record. We prepare the same. So, I think that's why our mentality, or what we've been able to do against teams that don't have winning records, I'm not going to say bad teams because, obviously, every team in this league, in this sport, is good, but you run a team, with losing and all that other stuff – that kind of makes your record what it is.  

"We approach every game as if it's a big game, a must-win game. Fortunately for us, we've been able to take care of business when we needed to, and this week is no different. We've got to go down to Oakland and take care of business. I don't think their record indicates how good they are."  

3. On Raiders cornerback Nmandi Asomugha: "He must be good, because the guy has one interception and he's making the Pro Bowl. That's a testament to how good he is, because nobody throws to his side. That speaks volumes for one person's ability to cover a wideout.  

"He's good, make no qualms about it. But you have to go in with a game plan, and stick to what you're able to do and be aggressive with that. You have to challenge him, either way it goes, because he's going to challenge you every play. So you can't just let him sit out there and not have to work."  

THREE DOWNS WITH ...
Oakland Raiders defensive end Richard Seymour

1.On the Raiders' mentality: "Well, it's our last regular season game and we want to finish out on a strong note. You know, I think we've played up to our potential. I think we have a lot of talent on this football team. I think everyone knows that, but we've been inconsistent all year.

"You know, that's why we can go out and beat a team like Philly and Denver and Pittsburgh, and then lay some eggs in other games. So, I think it's important for us to finish up on a strong note, because all the people always say, ‘What do we have to play for?' We have a lot to play for – we're playing for our jobs."  

2. On the Raiders' inconsistency: "Well, I just think it's focus, week in and week out. I think it's just human nature when you go out and you do well, you feel like it's going to happen the next week if you just show up. But you still have to prepare and do the little things that it takes to win in this league.

"That's why I have so much respect for some of the guys on this team, where preparation is important to them. Just the things that, you know, film study, taking care of your body, understanding where you're supposed to be on defense and being accountable. I don't think we've done a good job of that all year long."  

3. On the pass rush upfront: "Well, I think if you look across the board – myself, Tommy Kelly, Greg Ellis, Gerard Warren – all the big, strong, physical players, and it's always a matchup problem for most offensive lines that we go against.  

"And then we have some speed off the edge in Trevor Scott and Jay Richardson and young guys that are doing well for us, like Matt Shaughnessy. So, I think we have a good mixture of guys, and to be a Raider, you've got to be big, fast and strong. So, I think we definitely fit the bill."


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