Oakland Raiders (2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS) vs. Baltimore Ravens (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS)
NFL Week 4
Date/Time: Sunday, October 2, 2016 at 1PM EST
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: OAK/BAL
Over/Under Total: 46.5
On Sunday, the Oakland Raiders make the trip out east to face the Baltimore Ravens in AFC action pitting two teams that are hoping for an upswing in 2016. The Raiders moved to 2-1 on Sunday with a nice 17-10 win on the road against the Tennessee Titans. The Ravens, meanwhile, moved to 3-0 on the season after a 19-17 road win over the Jaguars, with a late 54-yard field goal getting them over the hump. Can Oakland pin the first loss on the Ravens and win back-to-back road games? Or will the Ravens ride their improved defense to another win this week?
At 2-1, a second straight road win for Oakland would really give them an air of legitimacy moving forward to the rest of the season. It was good to see them come out on the sunny side of a tough grinding sort of game on Sunday. They’ve shown they can win shootouts, but it was key for this still very young team to show they can be resourceful. The defense did its part, holding a home Titans bunch to a scant ten points. After a rough first two games where the “D” gave up alarming amounts of yardage, they were able to make some things happen with three turnovers and timely good play, namely at the end of the game when they kept Tennessee from tying it. Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson intercepted Mariota and other than giving up some yards to DeMarco Murray, they were pretty solid across the board.
Again, the Raiders offense wasn’t in full-flight on Sunday. Still, it’s a good sign that they can win these types of games, where Derek Carr has to smoothly navigate his way to a win instead of prevailing with both six-shooters blazing. They did enough to win against an improving Tennessee defense that had allowed one TD coming into the game. And they did it on the road. An early big TD run by Latavius Murray was key. And the run-game is getting a nice boost from rookie DeAndre Washington, who has been chipping in more and more with production. Seth Roberts caught a Carr pass for a score and Michael Crabtree was over 100 yards with Amari Cooper productive, as well. And again, Carr showed some maturity.
Not to overblow the importance of a game, but this is a pivotal period for Oakland. A long-suffering team, they laid the foundation the past few seasons and this is clearly the year for things to manifest. Starting at 2-1 is a good start, but 3-1 and winning two straight on the road suggests a contender, while 2-2 is a team in a holding pattern. It doesn’t all come down to this game by any means, but they can show they’re a team that is getting in the habit of delivering when needed. They beat the Saints and Titans, so beating a 3-0 team would also give them some extra wind in their sails before they head home for back-to-back divisional games.
It won’t be easy against a Ravens team that looks like it has more edge this season after a really tough 2015 campaign. Baltimore showed they can thrive in the face of adversity, as they were fortunate to come out ahead in week three. Trailing, they committed three fourth-quarter turnovers and still came back for the win, which has to be some kind of record. Justin Tucker was big with some key field goals and the game-winner. Joe Flacco was off-target late, but completed 21 straight passes at one point. He’s connecting with Steve Smith, Sr., and the resurgent duo of Mike Wallace and Dennis Pitta. And some youngsters are coming around, albeit slowly, which helps because the run-game for the Ravens looks iffy at best.
Over the past, we’ve become accustomed to seeing good Ravens teams depend on a good defense that can make an impact with big plays. We’re seeing that this season. On Sunday in a close game, the contributions of this “D” were key. Terrell Suggs has come back strong this season and had two sacks on Sunday, while CJ Mosley picked off a pass for the second game in a row. Zachary Orr made a ton of plays and also picked off a pass. And the secondary has been decent in keeping opposing aerial attacks in check. There was that bizarre first quarter against the Browns, when some mistakes on the offense led to a 20-point output in the first ten minutes of the game, but other than that, they’ve given up very little.
Baltimore has gotten off to a good start and that’s what counts in this bottom-line business. Three games, three wins, three covers—that’s what speaks loudest. Still, they beat the Bills, Browns, and the Jaguars—a trio of teams that enter week 4 with a combined 1-8 mark. And they beat those three teams by a combined 13 points. That defense was maybe made to look better that it really is. And the one-dimensional aspect of their offense might begin to manifest this week.
Still, I wouldn’t write-off the Baltimore 3-0 start, either. They have a good feeling in the locker room and that beats last season’s team when not a lot went right for the Ravens. I expect them to be pumped-up in front of a rollicking home-crowd that hasn’t seen much to cheer since the Ravens won the Bowl. I just see some of the things that didn’t come out so much in their first three games coming out more against a better Oakland team. I’m taking the points.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Oakland Raiders plus 3.5 points.
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