Matchups to Watch: Oakland Raiders at Baltimore Ravens

The Oakland Raiders look to move to 3-1 in Week 4 on the road against the Baltimore Ravens. Here are four matchups to watch.

After a defensive-driven 17-10 victory in Week 3 against the Titans, the Raiders have an opportunity to move to 3-1 on the season. In order to do so, they’ll have to beat the undefeated Ravens.

Oakland is just 1-18 in the Eastern Time Zone since 2009. Here are four matchups to watch as the Raiders hope to make that East Coast record to 2-18.

Aug 12, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Oakland Raiders tackle Donald Penn (72) and guard Kelechi Osemele (70) against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Kelechi Osemele vs. Brandon Williams

Kelechi Osemele is gearing up to return to Baltimore, where he began his career as a second round pick. Osemele has been incredible for the Raiders, racking up pancake blocks and paving the way for the Raiders three-headed monster running the ball, while keeping Derek Carr’s jersey clean.

Osemele played well against the Saints and Falcons, but facing Jurrell Casey, Osemele looked more “good” than “incredible”, and the Raiders will certainly need him to be incredible facing one of the more underrated interior DL in the league, led by Brandon Williams.

Williams is a mountain of a man, about the same weight as Osemele (330-335 lbs.) but Williams is carrying it on a much shorter frame (6’1″ vs 6’6″). Williams’ weight and strength combined with his leverage has made him one of the more effective interior defensive lineman in the league.

You won’t hear much about Williams, a former third-round pick from Missouri Southern, but his ability to occupy interior blockers allows LBs like CJ Mosley and Terell Suggs to move more freely and make plays

It will be huge for Osemele to rack up some more pancakes on Williams. The Raiders will need him to pave the way for the offense and ultimately, it will be a team effort between Osemele, Gabe Jackson and Rodney Hudson — but in order to make plays in the running game, Williams will often need to be blocked one on one, and Osemele is built for that.

While the return to Baltimore will likely be emotional for Osemele, he will need to have one of his best games yet as a Raider.

Sep 25, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback Sean Smith (21) celebrates after defeating the Tennessee Titans 17-10 at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 25, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback Sean Smith (21) celebrates after defeating the Tennessee Titans 17-10 at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Smith vs. Steve Smith Sr.

Sean Smith really stepped up last week against the Titans. He was one of the top CBs according to PFF and a Top 11 cornerback by NFL1000.

Sean’s strong performance in Week 3 may have something to do with the fact that he was able to cover WRs inferior to Julio Jones and better matchups physically than Brandin Cooks, but regardless, it was great to see that he stepped up.

Steve Smith drew a matchup with Jalen Ramsey last week and largely got the better of the Jags secondary, regardless of what you may have heard from Ramsey. Smith racked up 8 catches for 87 yards.

Steve is a seasoned vet that knows how to win physically and mentally. At the advanced age of 37, he isn’t as spry as he once was, but what he has lost in physical ability he has made up for in savvy and technique.

The battle of the Smith’s will be as much in their heads as it is on the field. Sean should have the advantage physically but if he has mental lapses and inconsistent technique that he showed early in the season then he will get owned. Also look for Steve to try to fluster Sean into making mental mistakes.

This will be a crucial battle throughout the game.

September 20, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (22) blocks a pass intended for Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper (89) during the fourth quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Ravens 37-33. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

September 20, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (22) blocks a pass intended for Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper (89) during the fourth quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Ravens 37-33. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Amari Cooper vs. Jimmy Smith

Amari Cooper is really becoming something exciting for the Raiders. In three games, he is well over 250 yards, and has had an even bigger impact that can’t be seen in the box score.

Cooper draws coverage from other receivers allowing Crabtree and Roberts to make plays. Teams have to be aware that Cooper can score from anywhere on the field, whether it be a deep shot or a screen, he is a threat to score any time the ball is in his hands.

Sean and Steve Smith aren’t the only Smiths to watch in this game. Jimmy Smith has played well for the Ravens this season and is a largely underrated CB.

Jimmy is predominantly a field-side corner, meaning that he will generally cover the side of the field away from the hash mark where the ball is placed (i.e. he covers more area than Shareece Wright). If he plays field CB vs. the Raiders, he will likely draw many matchups with Amari Cooper.

Jimmy is talented but Cooper should have the upper hand. The Ravens will struggle regardless of which CB matchups up on which receiver — as the fact of the matter is that the Raider receivers are simply more talented than the Ravens CBs.

There will be big plays made by Cooper, but Jimmy is talented enough to keep those explosive plays in check — the question is whether or not he will. If Smith plays less than 100 percent, Carr and Cooper will pick the defense apart.

Sep 25, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Oakland Raiders tight end Clive Walford (88) catches a pass against the Tennessee Titans during a NFL football game at Nissan Stadium. The Raiders defeated the Titans 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Clive Walford vs. Eric Weddle

Clive Walford is a weapon that is often considered underutilized by fans and analysts. He is big, agile, fast and strong. He has all of the tools to become a great TE in this league.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, his play has been largely disappointing thus far. His untimely drops are the ire of the collective fan base. He has everything he needs to be successful, but he needs to achieve to his potential or he will never be anything more than an average chess piece.

Clive has been moved around into the backfield at the line of scrimmage and all around formations, showing that Musgrave and the staff are counting on him to contribute to the offense. Time will tell if he can develop into that kind of player.

Eric Weddle was the safety nearly every Raiders fan wanted on their team. I certainly did. He is extremely talented, athletic and experienced. He is a great defensive leader and was a huge get for the Ravens secondary that desperately needed his well-rounded play.

Weddle already has an interception for the Ravens and he is talented enough to get another one on Carr. Weddle is smart and rangy and poses a threat to the Raiders offense.

If Walford can step up his game, it will be difficult for the Ravens to defend him. The ILBs of the Ravens aren’t quick enough to cover Walford and he will likely draw a matchup from a safety with his ability to play from the backfield, at the LOS and in the slot.

Walford may be matched up with Weddle from time to time. While Weddle is much smaller than Walford, he is certainly athletic enough to cover him effectively. This could certainly be an X-factor matchup to watch come Sunday.

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