By all appearances, the Oakland Raiders had a solid offseason. Almost anyone who paid attention felt like the franchise was finally ready to field a competitive football team. Maybe not be a playoff team, but one that wouldn’t be considered an automatic win for opposing teams. Turns out, the attention-payers may have been wrong. The Raiders failed in nearly every way possible in Week 1, to the point where it’s hard to find any positives among the wreckage and nearly impossible to see the Raiders beating the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
The Cincinnati Bengals handled the Raiders’ offense in every way. The Ravens’ defense might be better. Derek Carr has struggled under pressure. The Ravens are going to bring it all game long. Last week against the Denver Broncos, the Ravens tallied four sacks, two quarterback hits and nine quarterback hurries. On Pro Football Focus, their pass rush graded out at a +4.4 and the defense overall had a +18.5, good enough for the fourth highest grade in the league at the moment. They did lose Terell Suggs for the season, but this isn’t a defense that is going to crumble because one guy gets hurt, no matter how good he is.
Meanwhile, the Raiders never got their run game going and were relegated to short dump-off passes in the season opener. That game plan didn’t work against the Bengals and it won’t work against the Ravens. The problem is, the Raiders don’t really have a game plan that would look like a good one against this defense. They need to run the ball more, but they are going to have a very hard time doing so. Unless they stay disciplined and commit to the run — even if it’s not going well — things could really go south. Carr is simply not ready to carry the team on his shoulders like he tried to last season, and throwing the ball 40 times is not the way to get going against this defense.
The only saving grace is that the Ravens’ offense looked pretty bad against Denver. On Pro Football Focus they graded out to -36.1 — the worst grade in the entire league. The best part is that most of their offense didn’t grade out atrociously. Nearly every grade was negative but it was the Ravens’ -24.5 score in pass protection that gives the Raiders the slightest glimmer of hope. Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith were talked about as being a potentially dominant pair of pass rushers, but that never materialized against the Bengals. Both need to get going if the team has any hope for a respectable season and the Ravens offer them a great opportunity to do so.
If the Raiders can put together a pass rush that looks as good as many believed it would, they have a chance at giving the Ravens a game. If they can’t get to Joe Flacco, this is a game that could easily turn into another blowout.