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Ravens-Raiders Week 5: Three Key Matchups

October 6, 2017
WHO: Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at Oakland Raiders (2-2)
WHERE: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 8, 4:05 EDT

The Ravens travel to Oakland reeling from their second straight lopsided loss after a 2-0 start, as the archrival Pittsburgh Steelers manhandled the Ravens, 26-9, at M&T Bank Stadium Oct. 1. That came on the heels of an embarrassing 44-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.

Here are three key matchups as the Ravens look to rebound against a Raiders team that has also lost two straight after a 2-0 start:
 
1. Ravens T Austin Howard vs. Raiders DE Khalil Mack

These two have seen plenty of each other on the practice field, as Howard spent the past three seasons with the Raiders. Now, when the game counts, Howard must contend with Mack, the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year last season after he recorded 73 tackles, 11 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. Mack has 23 tackles and four sacks this year and has at least one sack in three straight games. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has mentioned he needs to "trust the pocket," and that will be easier to do if Howard can keep Mack out of Flacco's face.

2. Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey vs. Raiders WR Michael Crabtree or WR Amari Cooper

Jimmy Smith has been sidelined in practice this week by an Achilles injury, which could lead to rookie Marlon Humphrey's first career start. Humphrey has six tackles and three passes defensed in the first four games and has seen his snap count increase in each game. Against the Steelers, Humphrey was frequently matched up against Antonio Brown and held his own against the Pro Bowl receiver. Even if Smith is able to play, he'll be less than 100 percent, so Humphrey figures to see plenty of action.

Crabtree missed last week's game against the Denver Broncos with a chest injury but returned to practice this week and is expected to play. Against the Ravens last year, Crabtree had seven catches for 88 yards and three touchdowns. Cooper is off to a slow start this season, but he had seven catches for 109 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens in 2015. The Raiders, though, will be without starting quarterback Derek Carr (back). EJ Manuel will start in his place.

3. Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs vs. Raiders T Donald Penn

After a dominating start to the season, with three sacks including a pair of strip-sacks in the first two games, Suggs has been a non-factor in the two losses. He was credited with one assisted tackle against the Steelers and has not had a sack or quarterback hit in the past two games. The absence of Brandon Williams, out with a foot injury, has hurt the Ravens ability to generate inside pressure, and that has been a factor in the effectiveness of the edge rushers as well. 

It will also be imperative that Suggs and the other outside linebackers set the edge against the run. Last week, Le'Veon Bell hurt the Ravens with several outside runs en route to 144 rushing yards. 

Prediction

The Ravens catch a break in that Carr is sidelined, but until this Ravens offense shows more, it's hard to see them piling up enough to points to win, especially on the road. And a defense that is likely to be missing Williams again could also be without Smith. All of that spells trouble and a rough end to a rough three-week stretch.

Raiders 20, Ravens 16

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka    

Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox