OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- For a team that has put 16 players on injured reserve, one can say it was about time that the Baltimore Ravens benefited from some injury news.
A back injury to Derek Carr means reeling Baltimore will face EJ Manuel at quarterback for the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. The Ravens catch a major break here, going from a quarterback that has dominated them recently to a passer who hasn't won a game in over three years.
In playing Baltimore each of the past two seasons, Carr has completed nearly 68 percent of his throws for 550 yards. The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback has seven touchdowns and one interception for a 110.6 passer rating.
Instead of trying to beat Carr for the first time, Baltimore will try to defeat Manuel, an underachiever who hasn't beaten a team since Sept. 14, 2014.
Before the news broke that Carr had been ruled out for Sunday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh indicated that he doesn't expect much of a change if Manuel was forced to start.
"I think the thing that we have seen, in watching EJ Manuel, is he’s running the same offense that Derek Carr was running," Harbaugh said. "It’s not like they have a different offense for Manuel. He’s running the Oakland Raider offense, so we’ll prepare for their offense, probably try to have an understanding of what he does well."
It's far from a guarantee that Baltimore knocks off the Raiders. The Ravens lost to Manuel and the Bills in 2013, and Manuel's second NFL victory came against Baltimore.
Manuel didn't exactly beat the Ravens, however. It was Joe Flacco's five interceptions that did in Baltimore that day in Buffalo. Manuel was ragged throughout, completing 10 of 22 passes for 550 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
This quarterback switch comes at a time when the Ravens fell to 2-2 on the season and suffered their worst back-to-back losses in the 10-year John Harbaugh era. Baltimore was outscored 70-16 by Jacksonville (which lost to the New York Jets a week later) and Pittsburgh (which was upset in Chicago the previous week).
It's been a painful first quarter of the regular season, and it has nothing to do the scoreboard. Baltimore has placed the most players on IR so far, including six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, starting left guard Alex Lewis, starting defensive end Brent Urban, two nickel-backs (Tavon Young and Maurice Canady), promising running back Kenneth Dixon and special teams ace Albert McClellan.
Manuel filling in for Carr is just the start of how the schedule is lining up for favorably for Baltimore. After playing against the Raiders backup quarterback, the Ravens will go against Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (Baltimore is 10-0 against rookie quarterbacks at home under Harbaugh) and avoid chasing down rookie running back Dalvin Cook (season-ending ACL tear).
"You can get frustrated all you want," Harbaugh said. "You can kick over trashcans if you want, but it’s not going to make you better. We have to work. We have good guys that work hard and can find a way to improve. We’ve been worse than 2-2 here before and come back and gone to the AFC Championship [Game]."