The Oakland Raiders (0-1) and Baltimore Ravens (0-1) both seek to avoid an early season losing streak when they square off on Sunday at O.Co Coliseum.
The Ravens are prepared after a tough season-opening loss last weekend -- they remained on the West Coast after their Week 1 trip to Denver. On offense, quarterback Joe Flacco (18-for-32, 117 yards, 2 INT) will try to right the ship. On defense, newly signed defensive end Jason Babin has big shoes to fill following the loss of Terrell Suggs.
Head coach Jack Del Rio's team underwhelmed against the Bengals at home. Then, the team discovered it would have to go without safeties Charles Woodson and Nate Allen. The Silver-and-Black lining? Quarterback Derek Carr (thumb) appears healthy enough to play.
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Here are three keys to the game for both teams:
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1. O-line needs to rebound in a big way
The offensive line was dreadful in all phases against Denver last week, particularly at the tackle spots. Flacco was under duress all day and the running game barely mustered any positive yardage, especially in the first half. Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman would be wise to send an extra blocker Khalil Mack's way or it could be another long day for Flacco.
2. No letdown without Suggs
The loss of the defense's emotional leader will be tough to overcome, but thankfully for the Ravens, the Raiders' offense doesn't exactly evoke fear in its opponents. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees still can't allow his unit to come out flat and play down to the opposition.
3. Get the ball in Steve Smith's hands
The Ravens are severely lacking playmakers on offense. While Smith may be the unit's oldest member, he is also the most dangerous. The Broncos were able to keep the ball out of Smith's hands, but their corners are a few steps above Oakland's. Whether it's quick screens, end arounds or even punt returns, the more touches for Smith, the better.
1. Run the ball right at Babin
The Ravens' latest pickup has the unenviable task of contributing on a short week. He's no Suggs; Babin is known more for his wide-nine stance and run-stopping deficiencies than anything else. He's a weakness that Latavius Murray (11 carries, 44 yards) and the offense must exploit.
2. Bring pressure -- and hope it gets home
Oakland's secondary is absolutely decimated. Emergency starters Taylor Mays and Larry Asante won't hold up without some kind of pass rush to protect them. It'll be up to Mack (and maybe newly added linebacker Aldon Smith) to disrupt Flacco's timing. Otherwise, it could be another long defensive day.
3. Make the Ravens respect Amari Cooper
From a four-catch debut to an offensive pass interference call to a Pacman Jones helmet shove, it's been a tough week for the Raiders' top draft pick. Cooper's second act won't be any easier against that notorious Ravens defense. So, a few designed runs and bubble screens could help the rookie get in the flow of the game early on.