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Pick Six: Can the Raiders control the line of scrimmage?

Can the Oakland Raiders make it two in a row for the first time in the 2018? We’ll find out in just a few days, but that’ll be the goal for Head Coach Jon Gruden’s squad as they march into Baltimore to take on the Ravens Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium.

Boasting the top defense in the NFL, the Silver and Black will have their hands full with the Ravens – no doubt about that.

Kickoff is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. PT; here are six things you need to watch once the action gets underway.

1. Can the Raiders control the line of scrimmage?

Each week we discuss the importance of dominating at the line of scrimmage. Plain and simple, the game is won in the trenches, and whichever squad can impose their will up front, is typically the one who enjoys the better day at the office.

Last weekend in Arizona, the Raiders did just that, methodically establishing a rhythm on the offensive line, and the rewards for doing that were bountiful, as the team ran for a season-high 152 rushing yards en route to a 23-21 Week 11 win.

No offense to the Cardinals, but the Baltimore defensive line is an entirely different beast, as they rank third in the NFL, allowing just under 95 rushing yards per game.

The triumvirate of Doug Martin, Jalen Richard and DeAndré Washington were stellar their last time out; let’s see if they can keep the good times rolling in Maryland.

2. Limiting Lamar

Head Coach John Harbaugh made it official; the Ravens will start rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson Sunday afternoon against the Silver and Black.

Since Jackson is indeed the one to get the nod over veteran signal-caller Joe Flacco, the former Louisville Cardinal presents a unique set of challenges for Paul Guenther’s defense.

First things first, the man is electric with his legs – just look at his college stats if you want proof of that – but in addition to everything he can do running the football, don’t forget that he has quite the arm too.

“I think the world of him,” said Derek Carr. “I really do. I think he’s a very special player. As he continues to learn this game and the speed of things and what throws he can get away with, what ones he can’t. As long as he continues to work, he’s going to be hard to stop for years to come.”

The sample size for Mr. Jackson isn’t the largest, I’ll give you that, but if you look at his body of work, he possesses the rare ability to be a complete game changer with both his arm and his legs.

The Raiders will be in for quite the challenge in slowing him down.

3. No big plays

Let’s give a little credit to the Raiders defense real quick.

Over the past two weeks, the group has really played an improved brand of football, and their collective effort is a big reason why the Silver and Black flew home from the desert last weekend with a well-earned “W.”

That said, the big plays have still been the team’s bugaboo – even in last week’s win.

We just talked about how dynamic Lamar Jackson is, but let’s not forget about John Brown either, a guy who has made a career out of being a deep threat.

The Raiders defense has played pretty well in spurts as of late, let’s see if they can put together a complete, 60-minute performance.

4. The next man up

It remains to be seen whether or not Jordy Nelson is able to go against the Ravens, but I’ll tell you one thing, if the veteran wide receiver can’t strap on the pads against the Ravens, once again, the youth movement will be in full effect out wide for the Raiders.

Last weekend, with the game on the line, we saw Marcell Ateman rise up and make a play for his team, so if Nelson doesn’t play Sunday, I’d imagine we see more of the same.

Also, be sure to keep an eye on old/new friend Keon Hatcher who re-joined the Silver and Black earlier this week and figures to get some run at M&T Bank Stadium.

I have a feeling Seth Roberts will figure into the mix as well…

5. Keep the good times rolling, Mr. Carlson

My man Daniel Carlson should be working in finance, because the dude has been money since joining the Raiders.

(apologies for the terrible pun; let’s move on)

Yeah, I know he missed a field goal against the San Francisco 49ers, but that one kick aside, the former Auburn Tiger has been stellar – so stellar in fact, that he was named the Week 11 AFC Special Teams Player of the Week following his performance against the Cardinals.

Carlson has been exactly what the Raiders have been looking for, and against a defense as stout as the Ravens, points will be at a premium Sunday afternoon.

If the Silver and Black want to return home with a win, Carlson will have to stay clutch and take advantage of his opportunities, keep an eye on how many times he’s asked to connect.

6. Weather game?

As of now, we’re looking at 57 degrees with clear skies Sunday afternoon in Baltimore, but with rain on the forecast for both Saturday and Monday, it remains to be seen if the rain holds off for kickoff.

If it doesn’t, and we have a little bit of weather to deal with, make sure you watch how the respective teams handle that variable.

Will Mother Nature crash the party and do her best to influence what happens on the field? We’ll just have to wait and find out; kickoff is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. PT.

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