Sunday October 2nd, 2016

Of the NFL’s five undefeated teams entering Week 4, the Ravens were shakiest of the bunch. Baltimore’s three wins entering Sunday were by 13 points combined, and the Ravens’ margin of victory decreased each week (from six to five to two). 

Going up against the Raiders, the Ravens’ luck in close games finally ran out, as Oakland eked out a 28–27 win to improve to 3–1. The Raiders have been no stranger to close games themselves, as their three victories have come by a combined nine points, but they surely win in much more fun ways than Baltimore.

From their opening week decision to go for two (and the win) against the Saints, the Raiders have been putting a large burden on Derek Carr—and he’s delivered. Carr threw for four touchdown passes against the Ravens, including the go-ahead score to Michael Crabtree (who caught three scores) with just over two minutes to go on Sunday. Carr now has nine touchdown passes (against only one interception) so far this season, and he’s thrown at least 35 passes in every game. After years of watching the Raiders plod along on offense, it’s refreshing watching them sling it around aggressively with success.

The Ravens, meanwhile, had been winning in spite of Joe Flacco. The former Super Bowl MVP has thrown only four touchdowns as well as four interceptions in 2016. Flacco has now posted pedestrian passer ratings of 72.6, 64 and 83.7 in the last three weeks, and he failed to do much against Oakland’s porous pass defense until the fourth quarter. Flacco threw a whopping 52 times Sunday, but the Ravens may have been better served feeding Terrance West, who ran for 113 yards on 21 carries. 

In any case, the NFL would be a lot more interesting if both these teams kept finding ways to play in and win these incredibly close games. Oakland gets the Chargers at home next week, while Washington will visit Baltimore. 

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