BALTIMORE (AP) — Off to their best start since 2009, the Baltimore Ravens are one of only five unbeaten teams in the NFL.
Kelechi Osemele is among the few who saw this coming — even though Baltimore went 5-11 last season with Osemele on the offensive line.
“I won a Super Bowl in Baltimore. I already know what the organization is all about,” said Osemele, now a member of the Oakland Raiders.
“There’s a standard of excellence there — something that we’re trying to have here in Oakland. No, I can’t say that I’m surprised. I don’t really expect it to be any other way.”
The Ravens (3-0) have beaten three teams — Buffalo, Cleveland and Jacksonville — that have one win between them.
A true test of Baltimore’s resurgence could come Sunday, when the Raiders (2-1) come to town.
Oakland has already won twice on the road, including a gritty 17-10 conquest of Tennessee last week. Far more noteworthy: The Raiders defeated Baltimore 37-33 last season behind Derek Carr, who threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns.
That was then. Now, the Ravens have linebacker Terrell Suggs, who missed the final 15 games with a torn Achilles tendon. Baltimore also added safety Eric Weddle, a key figure on the league’s second-ranked defense unit.
“I just think we are playing inspired football,” said Suggs, who had two sacks in last week’s 19-17 comeback win over the Jaguars.
“We kind of got the deck stacked. We have all our guys back. We have all our working parts. We get another guy back this week. That is going to help us out.”
Elvis Dumervil, who missed the first three games with a foot injury, is expected to make his season debut Sunday.
The Raiders, on the other hand, must improve a porous defense that ranks last in the NFL, yielding an average of 476 yards per game.
Some things to know about the Raiders-Ravens matchup:
SURGING SECONDARY: After getting beaten frequently in the first two weeks when the Raiders gave up a record 1,035 yards of total offense, Oakland’s secondary stepped up last week.
David Amerson had four passes defensed and allowed just four catches on 11 targets, according to SportRadar. Sean Smith, who got benched in the opener, gave up just one catch on seven targets after permitting 10 catches on 12 throws the first two games.
“Our corners played really well,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “They’ve been taking a lot of heat and obviously, they played much better. Both of the corners did. I thought overall our secondary was a whole lot sharper.”
NO ROOM TO RUN: Baltimore’s running game has been, to put it kindly, ineffective.
Terrance West leads the team with 119 yards on 33 carries, Justin Forsett has 98 on 31 attempts and the Ravens are averaging 3.3 yards per carry.
West wondered aloud whether sharing the load is the right way to go.
“To be honest, it’s hard. As a running back, you have to get into the groove,” he said. “You get stronger as the game goes. But you still have to take advantage of the opportunities no matter what when your number is called, so there’s no excuses.”
HOME AGAIN: Osemele said he had some hurt feelings when the Ravens didn’t pursue him aggressively in free agency. The Raiders were glad to step in, getting Osemele with a five-year, $58.5 million contract.
Osemele is a big reason behind Oakland’s improved run game, which is averaging 148.3 yards per game — second-best in the NFL. Now Osemele gets to take out his feelings on some former teammates.
“It’s definitely going to be a passionate day for me,” he said. “It’s a lot of mixed feelings going on at that time in that stadium.”
KICKING DUEL: If the game is close at the finish, two of the best kickers in the NFL will be available to provide the winning points.
Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski set an NFL record last week with his 53rd field goal of at least 50 yards. Baltimore’sJustin Tucker boomed a 53-yarder to beat Jacksonville and is 9 for 9 on field goal tries this season.
CONSISTENT CRAB: While several Raiders receivers have struggled with dropped passes this season, Michael Crabtree has caught almost every pass thrown his way. Crabtree had eight catches for 102 yards last week, producing six first downs. It was his most catches in a game since having nine for 111 yards last season against the Ravens.
“He gets open and he makes tough catches, very tough,” Carr said. “He’s one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever been around.”
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