RAIDERS // RAVENS OVERVIEW
The Ravens get another home game against a weak opponent this week as they attempt to keep their season alive — and with upcoming road matchups against the Falcons, Chiefs, and Chargers, this is an important game for them to get. The good news? — their Week 12 opponent is the Raiders, who are hardly even trying anymore, as Jon Gruden figures he has all offseason to build the dynasty that will obviously dominate the league for the next nine seasons.
Joe Flacco did not practice on Wednesday this week, and it would make sense for the Ravens to hold him out one more week as they take on a Raiders team that is so bad against the run, they have faced the fewest pass attempts in the entire NFL in spite of allowing the second most yards per pass attempt. Most teams have decided that there is no reason to even bother trying to attack Oakland through the air — and after the Ravens ran the ball over 50 times last week against the Bengals and passed only 19 times, there is no reason to project them to do anything different.
On the other side of the ball, of course, it will be a Raiders team that ranks 30th in points per game taking on a Ravens squad that has allowed the fewest points per game in the league. Good luck with that.
Unsurprisingly, the Ravens have been installed as early 10.5 point favorites, with Oakland carrying the lowest Vegas-implied team total on the slate.
RAIDERS PASS OFFENSE
No team in the NFL has allowed a lower catch rate than Baltimore, and only one team has allowed a lower YAC/R rate — bad news for an Oakland passing attack that capitalizes on (um…I mean, that tries to capitalize on) racking up a high completion rate on short catches and adding yards after the catch. The last time the Raiders topped 270 passing yards, the calendar said September. This team has fallen shy of 200 passing yards in three of its last five games. In four of his 10 games this year, Derek Carr has failed to throw even one touchdown pass. In another three games, he has failed to throw more than one. Only three teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns than the Ravens this year.
Jordy Nelson has a chance to return this week (hurrah for Raiders fans!). He has topped 48 receiving yards only once all season and has not topped 16 yards since Week 5.
Seth Roberts should see around five to seven targets here, which will give him a shot at a 4-40-0 line — a range he has hit in six of his nine games. Incredibly, Roberts has hit exactly 38 to 43 receiving yards in five of his nine games, with no games north of 43 yards.
With Brandon LaFell rupturing his achilles, the Raiders may be left scraping either Ardarius Stewart or Saeed Blacknall off the practice squad to fill out the receiving corps.
The best bet for production on this team appears to be seventh round rookie Marcell Ateman, who went 4-50-0 last week against Arizona on five targets.
The Ravens have allowed the eighth fewest wide receiver receptions and the second fewest wide receiver yards in the league.
RAIDERS RUN OFFENSE
Oakland won’t have things much better on the ground, where the Ravens have allowed the eighth fewest yards per carry in the league while giving up the fewest receiving yards in the NFL to running backs. Only four teams in football have given up fewer touchdowns to running backs this year. No team has allowed fewer total yards per game.
Last week, the Raiders sat Doug Martin in the second half — either because Martin hurt his ankle or because this team wanted to see what DeAndre Washington could do (Gruden wasn’t quite sure). This backfield now consists of Martin and Washington on early downs, with Jalen Richard mixing in on passing downs.
Oakland ranks 22nd in plays per game this year. With all the running that Baltimore is expected to do when they have the ball, they should be able to shorten this game quite a bit.
RAVENS PASS OFFENSE
Oakland has been one of the easiest teams in the NFL to attack through the air, allowing the fifth deepest aDOT in football and pairing this with a league-average catch rate allowed and the highest YAC/R rate allowed in the league. This has led to the Raiders ranking 31st in yards allowed per pass attempt, but because this team is so easy to attack on the ground (25th in yards allowed per carry, 31st in rushing yards allowed per game), they have faced the fewest pass attempts in the league.
The Ravens’ passing offense was practically nonexistent last week in ai similar matchup (Cincy ranks 30th in yards allowed per carry, and they are the only team that has allowed more rushing yards this year than the Raiders), with Lamar Jackson asked to throw only 19 times while carrying the ball an incredible 27 times. Obviously, the fantasy community thinks it’s silly that the Ravens are even considering putting Flacco back out there when he is healthy (because, of course, this will continue working all season…), but it would be silly for Baltimore to make the switch this week. Even if Flacco starts, we should expect a run-leaning approach; but we will approach this writeup assuming Jackson gets the nod — in which case, “pass offense” is almost a null and void idea in this spot.
Last week, Jackson was asked to throw only one pass more than 16 yards downfield, and he was asked to throw only four passes that went outside the numbers more than five yards downfield (going one for four on these throws, with one interception). Four of his 13 completions went to tight end Nick Boyle, and another five went to slot receiver Willie Snead. Michael Crabtree and John Brown combined for only two receptions on four targets. If Jackson does keep the starting job beyond this week, Baltimore will begin finding themselves in games in which they need to open up the offense. This is not that game.
If you are set on attacking through the air in this spot, your best bet for upside is JB, who could come alive with a deep ball role against this poor downfield defense if the Ravens do indeed choose to put more passing volume on Jackson’s plate. Given that the Ravens seemed to genuinely want Flacco to start last week and then proceeded to prevent Jackson from attacking downfield (and given that this team needs this win in order to keep their season on track), it would be a surprise if they suddenly unleashed Jackson through the air.
RAVENS RUN OFFENSE
We’ve already poured enough salt on the wounds of this pathetic Oakland run defense, but one final note that is very much worth thinking about here: the Bengals defense that Baltimore undressed last week on the ground has maintained a lot of the schematic concepts from longtime DC Paul Guenther. The reason Guenther is no longer in Cincinnati? — he is now the defensive coordinator of the Raiders.
Surprising everyone last week was undrafted rookie Gus Edwards, who had touched the ball only 16 times all season heading into the Ravens’ Week 11 game. After Alex Collins scored a touchdown on Baltimore’s opening drive, he absolutely disappeared — finishing the game with only 17 total snaps, while Edwards piled up a monstrous 49 snaps, going for 115 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and earning top marks from PFF for his strong north-south game. There is genuinely no telling how this backfield will shake out once Flacco returns (Harbaugh had a quote after the game about how the Ravens have ‘four backs they like’), but with Javorius Allen and Ty Montgomery combining for only 14 snaps last week and Edwards running as many pass routes (10) as the other three combined, we should be in for another Gus Gus celebration.
The beauty of this setup last week was the extra defenders the Bengals had to keep on the edge to account for Jackson on zone reads — which left Gus Gus running through big holes and dealing with fewer defenders on the second level. The dynamic between Jackson and Gus Gus was a complete shift from the way things looked when Collins was on the field, almost certainly locking the rookie into another heavy-usage game as long as Jackson is under center. He should max out at one or two targets, making him a true yardage-and-touchdown guy — but opportunities will be there for the yardage-and-touchdowns to hit.
This rushing attack wraps up with Jackson, who should be viewed as a legitimate threat for 20+ carries and 100+ yards in this spot, and who can be comfortably projected for another 100 to 150 yards through the air.
I have not been targeting players against the Ravens all year, and a matchup against Oakland is not going to change that for me. There are much higher floor/ceiling options on the slate than this.
I don’t plan to target a single Baltimore pass catcher myself, but I do expect this team to genuinely push for 40 to 50 rush attempts once again, with the bulk of these carries going to Gus Gus and Lamar, putting each guy in the conversation this week.
From a “projections” perspective, we should note that 100 rushing yards for Jackson is really no different from 250 passing yards from another quarterback (or, on DraftKings and FantasyDraft — where bonuses are involved — a 300-yard passing game is better than a 100-yard rushing game), and if someone like Jameis, for example, goes for 300 yards and two passing touchdowns, this is about the same as Lamar going for 100 yards and a rushing touchdown (while adding 125 or 150 yards through the air). To put that another way: Jackson is no guarantee to just plain smash the other quarterbacks, and there is a very real possibility that a few of these upside passers (or a true dual-threat guy like Cam) could post a much higher score. But the flip side of this is that Jackson posted a strong game last week without accounting for a single touchdown, and it would not be outlandish to believe he could push across one or two rushing scores this week. His floor is not too far off from the more traditional quarterbacks we can target this week, and he has the potential to post a true difference-making score.
Jackson can be “stacked” with Gus Gus (or you can play the running back solo), in the hopes you capture around 250 rushing yards and three or more touchdowns from the pair. Lamar is the safer play, as he can add passing statistics if game flow somehow turns out differently — but ultimately, we should not expect the Raiders to do enough on offense to force the Ravens to throw; and because the Raiders will still need to respect Brown on the deep ball and will need to account for multiple rushing lanes on each play, I do not expect this two-headed rushing attack to fail.