Ray Rice watched film of Oakland's game against Tampa Bay last week and nearly jumped out his chair in anticipation of facing a defense that yielded four touchdowns and 251 yards rushing to rookie Doug Martin.
"Obviously, you look at it and you start to get excited when you see it happening," Rice said. "Anybody goes over 200 yards, you have to figure there is a problem there."
Rice has topped the 100-yard mark only twice in eight games this season for the Baltimore Ravens (6-2), but all signs point to a banner Sunday for the two-time Pro Bowl running back. Rice needs only 1 yard rushing to reach 5,000 for his career, but by day's end he will be disappointed if he's anywhere below 5,100.
For one thing, Rice (5-foot-8, 212 pounds) is built similarly to Martin (5-9, 215). Secondly, Rice has far more experience than the kid out of Boise State.
"To see him get out in the open field and making guys miss was pretty exciting to see from a rookie running back," Rice said. "The problem that I saw on film was tackling. I guess his height helped him out. I think his size helped him out a little bit, too."
Rice and the Ravens know the Raiders (3-5) spent hours this week trying to rectify the problem. If Oakland is to snap Baltimore's 14-game home winning streak, priority No. 1 will be to stop Rice.
"That's going to be the theme of the week," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "We've got to do a great job of tackling and swarming this running back because I think they've probably taken some of the same philosophy as Tampa, and I believe they'll try to run the ball some against us."
Rice has been used sparingly this season, reaching 20 carries in only two games thus far, but the Raiders are fully anticipating a heavy dose of Rice on Sunday.
"I expect them to do that, definitely," Oakland linebacker Philip Wheeler said.
Soon after the Raiders walked off the field following their 42-32 loss to the Buccaneers, Wheeler began thinking about making amends for the awful performance by the defense.
"I was kind of shocked that we let that happen," he said. "Even after the game I was thinking, 'We have another team with a similar running attack. We can redeem ourselves.'"
Despite the poor performance, Oakland's run defense is still ranked higher than Baltimore's — 21st compared to 28th. But the Raiders' top two running backs, Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, both have sprained right ankles and might sit out the game. That means Oakland could be forced to count heavily on quarterback Carson Palmer, who threw for 414 yards on 61 attempts in an effort to keep pace with Tampa Bay.
Although the Raiders and Ravens haven't met since 2010, Palmer is well acquainted with playing against Baltimore. In 13 career games with Cincinnati from 2004-10, he threw for 3,302 yards against the Ravens and went 9-4.
"He's one of those underrated quarterbacks that can make every throw, especially if he gets in a groove," Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "You saw it when was with Cincinnati. I remember vividly games I thought we had won, and Carson Palmer got in his groove and he torched us."
Allen said, ""Obviously, it helps a little bit that he has a familiarity with not only the scheme but the personnel. We've used some of that experience, as we do every week with Carson, as far as game-planning is concerned. I think it's a plus that he has experience against this defense."
Palmer's primary targets are wide receivers Denarius Moore, who's scored touchdowns in three of the last four games, and Darrius Heyward-Bey, a former player at the University of Maryland who isn't the least bit sentimental about returning home for the first time since being drafted seventh overall by Oakland in the 2009 draft.
"It's exciting for all my friends and family back home," he said, "but for me, it's just another football game that we are trying to win as a team."
Oakland has never won in Baltimore, losing four games by a total of 49 points. The Raiders have that going against them, in addition to trying to get a grip on Rice.
"We've got another huge challenge this week because we have another outstanding back in Ray Rice," Allen said. "He's been in this league for a long time. We've got our work cut out for us, not only against Ray Rice, but against the whole Baltimore team."
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