By Ryan Leong
Everyone in the Bay Area knows how good a head coach Jim Harbaugh is with the San Francisco 49ers, but his older brother John set the standard in Baltimore where the Ravens this season are 6-2 and have the second best record in the AFC. Since his arrival with the Ravens in 2008, the worst record during Harbaugh’s tenure is 9-7. The team has made the playoffs each year, twice losing in the AFC Championship Game including last year to the New England Patriots.
Unlike the Raiders, Baltimore has a strong running game thanks to Ray Rice, who has 622 rushing yards this season. Last week, Rice ran for 97 yards and the team had a season-high 137 rushing yards. Baltimore is 18-0 when it has at least 22 rushing attempts since the beginning of last season.
“We need to be able to run the ball. That’s kind of our identity,” Harbaugh said. “We want to be a physical football team, (but) the truth is, it’s going to take different things in different games to win.”
Stopping Rice will be critical if the Raiders are to have any chance of success. Last week, Oakland’s run defense was shredded by Tampa Bay’s diminutive running back Doug Martin who ran for a franchise record 251 yards and four touchdowns.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has passed for 1990 yards. Compare that to Carson Palmer, who has passed for 2355 yards.
One Achilles heel for Baltimore is penalties. They’re emulating the Raiders of old, averaging 72.1 penalty yards per game, second worst in the league only to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On defense, they’re missing two key players, linebacker Ray Lewis and cornerback Lardarius Webb. Jameel McClain is the replacement for Ray Lewis at middle linebacker and as the defensive signal-caller, he will communicate with defensive coordinator Dean Pees with a microphone in his helmet.
The Ravens aren’t the kind of team that plays for stats. Many of their wins are ones where they ‘win ugly.’
“We’ve never been fancy and pretty, but we find ourselves on top most of the time,” Rice said. “That’s Ravens football. Our wins are not pretty, but when you are 6-2, there’s no complaining about it.”
Baltimore is ranked 22nd in the NFL in third down efficiency at 35 percent. But the Raiders are even worse, ranked 30th at 29.9 percent.
The Ravens have two threats at wideout, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. Boldin has 36 catches for 510 yards and a touchdown while Smith has 29 catches for 481 yards and five scores. It’ll be interesting to see how the Raiders secondary will do. Oakland might see the return of Ron Bartell who has been out since Week One after he fractured his shoulder blade.
But Palmer has a good history against the Ravens with a career 9-4 record, and one player who knows how good he can be against his team is Ravens cornerback Terrell Suggs, set to make his 2012 home debut after recovering from a partially torn right Achilles tendon back in April.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Raiders news, see CBS Sports Sacramento.
Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.