Irresistible Force Meeting Immovable Object In Baltimore?

Sep 20, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) scores on a one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens as at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 20, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) scores on a one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens as at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders are in Baltimore to take on the Ravens – a team that is essentially their mirror opposite – in a game pitting high flying offense versus bone jarring defense.

The prevailing belief among many is that defense wins – and often wins championships. If that old axiom holds true, the Oakland Raiders may run into a little bit of trouble when they take on the Baltimore Ravens. This looks like a classic game of irresistible force meeting immovable object.

You don’t have to squint very hard or stand in a certain light to see that the Raiders and the Ravens are just about mirror opposites. Or maybe opposite sides of the same coin. Or insert whatever metaphor is most pleasing to you here.

Through the first three weeks of the season, the Raiders have had one of the league’s best offenses. The Ravens, on the other hand, have had one of the league’s best defenses. And we saw in last year’s Super Bowl what happens when top offense meets top defense. If you happen to recall that game, the results weren’t all that pretty.

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But the Raiders come into their matchup with the Ravens boasting the league’s second best offense, notching 436 yards per game. And they’ll be going toe to toe with a defense that is allowing just 254 yards per game – second best in the league.

The head to head match up that will be most intriguing is Oakland’s rushing offense versus Baltimore’s run defense. The Raiders come into the game racking up an average of 148 yards per game on the ground – good for number two in the NFL.

On the other side of that coin, the Ravens come into the contest giving up a pedestrian 86 rushing yards per game to their opponents – good for eighth best in the NFL. Latavius Murray, DeAndre Washington, and Jalen Richard have done a fantastic job of revitalizing Oakland’s running game and adding a very important dimension to it. But will they be able to keep that going in Baltimore or will the Ravens defense be able to shut down Oakland’s ground attack?

Seems like a classic case of irresistible force and immovable object, does it not? Maybe – but then again, maybe not.

While it’s true that Baltimore has been synonymous with aggressive, brutal defense for a good long time, it is possible that the numbers they are putting up so far this season are a bit – inflated. Maybe a little bit – exaggerated.

While the numbers Baltimore is putting up certainly look good at first blush, it’s not like the Ravens have exactly been playing – powerhouses. They’re off to a 3-0 start and are looking like an elite defensive unit, but consider the fact that defense has feasted on the likes of Buffalo, Cleveland, and Jacksonville. That would be, respectively, the league’s thirtieth, sixteenth, and twenty-sixth ranked offenses if you’re scoring at home.

Think of it like this – Baltimore’s gaudy defensive stats are kind of like Nick Saban and Alabama rolling up big numbers on teams like Western Kentucky, Kent State, and Chattanooga. Which is to say, they look great in the box scores, but there’s not a lot of substance behind that style.

The Raiders will provide the Ravens their first actual test thus far in 2016. Is this Baltimore defense actually as elite as it seems? Or are there holes this Raiders team can exploit?

With an array of weapons like Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper, Clive Walford, Murray, Richard, and Washington, expect to see a lot of different looks from OC Bill Musgrave. Expect to see Musgrave testing different aspects of this Ravens defense, trying to find the cracks.

And expect that the first cracks he’ll be looking for will be along Baltimore’s defensive front. Oakland comes into the game boasting the league’s best offensive line. And this, despite a rash of injuries that have necessitated a lot of big bodies shuffling in and out of the lineup.

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But this Ravens team did hold LeSean McCoy to just 58 rushing yards on 16 carries. However, the following week, the turned around and gave up 133 on the ground to Isaiah Crowell of the Browns. And then followed up that performance by holding Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon of the Jaguars to a combined 31 yards rushing on 18 carries last week.

So which version of this Baltimore defense are we going to see? Will the Raiders find room to run?

Given the fact that the Browns have the league’s fourth best running game – while Buffalo and Jacksonville have the league’s ninth and thirty-first, respectively – it seems very possible, if not likely, that Oakland’s massive offensive line is going to be able to spring their running backs.

To put it another way, if Cleveland can have some success on the ground against this Baltimore team, the Raiders should be able to as well.

If you simply look at things on the surface, this appears to be that matchup of irresistible force and immovable object that the media continues to pump up. A media, by the way, that has largely picked the Ravens to win.

But if you dig a little bit deeper, you can see that it’s not exactly as black and white as they make it out to be. This Ravens defense is not the Ray Lewis led defense that led Baltimore to a Super Bowl title back in 2000.

They’re a good defensive unit, to be sure. They’re aggressive and they make plays. But given the level of competition they’ve battered on their way to a 3-0 start – three teams with a combined record of 1-8 – it’s hard to gauge just how good this Ravens defense actually is. Or how good it perhaps, isn’t.

Next: Raiders Secondary To Get Stiff Test In Baltimore

Sunday’s game will be telling – for both teams. Baltimore is perhaps the most well rounded team the Raiders have faced so far this season. And the Raiders are perhaps the most potent and competitive team they’ve squared off with.

Irresistible force meeting immovable object? Maybe. Time will tell. But the Raiders may just have a little more success in Baltimore than much of the media believes they will.