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Key Matchups To Watch: Oakland Raiders vs. Baltimore Ravens


The Oakland Raiders have their hands full Sunday, as they'll travel to Baltimore to take on the 3-0 Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

After a trio of early wins, Joe Flacco and Co. are one of just five undefeated teams left in the NFL, but the Raiders will hope to change that Sunday afternoon.

Heading into the Week 4 contest in Baltimore, here are three matchups to watch that will have a big impact on the final score of the game.

Cornerback David Amerson vs. Wide Receiver Steve Smith Sr.

Just over a year ago, Steve Smith Sr. enjoyed an impressive day at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Albeit it in a losing effort, the veteran wideout hauled in 10 passes for 150 yards, and while he was kept out of the end zone, he was a dynamic weapon for Flacco all afternoon.

Now, Smith will get to take on the Silver and Black back at home in Baltimore, and the veteran wide receiver will certainly look to replicate the success he found last season against the Raiders secondary.

However, the Raiders group is completely retooled from a season ago, and following a quality Week 3 outing in Nashville, Amerson and Sean Smith were graded out as the highest-rated cornerbacks of the week by Pro Football Focus.

Even at age 37, Smith is one of the more explosive – and colorful – athletes in the NFL, and limiting his productivity would be a huge success for the Raiders.

Right Tackle Vadal Alexander vs. Outside Linebacker Terrell Suggs

Suggs is the veteran leader of the Ravens defense, and even in his 14th season in Baltimore, the former Defensive Player of the Year is performing at a high level, as he's already tallied three sacks in the early stages of the regular season.

From top to bottom, the Ravens boast an impressive defensive unit, and heading into their Week 4 bout with the Raiders, the group is giving up just 254.3 yards per game, which ranks second in the NFL.

Now, Suggs will operate from a variety of locations along the offensive line, but it would stand to reason that the Ravens will be keyed in rookie Vadal Alexander, who will be the assumed right tackle if Menelik Watson isn't able to go. 

Even with the myriad combinations that the Raiders offensive line has boasted this season, the group has done a solid job, regardless of the personnel, and if Alexander is indeed the man at right tackle Sunday afternoon, he'll have quite the challenge in front of him in limiting Suggs.

Linebacker Malcolm Smith vs. Tight End Dennis Pitta

As impressive as Steve Smith Sr. has been this season, Pitta is the player who currently leads the Ravens in receiving, with 18 catches for 183 yards through three weeks.

Last season, the Raiders defense had a well-documented issue eliminating the opposing tight end, and in their Week 2 matchup with the Ravens last season, Crockett Gilmore ran wild, catching five passes, and finding the end zone twice.

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.'s group will try to ensure that Pitta does not enjoy a similar day to his fellow tight end, and I'd guess that multiple players – including rookie safety Karl Joseph – will get a chance at shutting Pitta down.

However, Smith will certainly get his fair share of reps against Pitta, and if the linebacker is able to shut him down, it would pay huge dividends for the Raiders defense as a whole.

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