Baltimore Ravens vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Preview and Prediction
Between now and Week 10, the Philadelphia Eagles don't face a single team that posted a sub-.500 record in 2011. Considering that they barely survived against the Cleveland Browns in their opener, that's daunting.
But at least Philly is back at home this week. That's the good news. The bad news? The Eagles face the mighty Baltimore Ravens.
What Philly must do to win, offensive edition
After passing on 64 percent of their offensive plays in Week 1, the Eagles absolutely have to take some of the pressure off of quarterback Michael Vick by establishing a more balanced attack. Running back LeSean McCoy has to be a constant presence, regardless of how many holes he's finding.
What Philly must do to win, defensive edition
The Eagles have to trust their very talented cornerbacks and focus the front seven on stopping Baltimore's most dangerous threat, Ray Rice. If they can limit Rice, they'll be in good shape.
I'm not saying I don't believe in quarterback Joe Flacco, but I don't think he can beat Philadelphia without help.
How Philly can lose
If Vick plays even remotely like he did against the Browns, the Eagles won't stand a chance against one of the league's most talented teams. The pass protection wasn't good last week, either, but that's the norm.
The one player who has to take the biggest leap from Week 1 to Week 2 is the franchise quarterback.
Five most important non-quarterbacks
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, LeSean McCoy, Jason Avant, Brent Celek and Trent Cole.
DRC will be counted upon to keep the momentum going from a stellar Week 1 performance by clamping down on much more talented receivers than he faced in Week 1. McCoy has to help establish balance against a run defense that gave up only 3.5 yards per carry last year.
Avant and Celek will be relied upon to step up, with Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson out or limited. Cole fuels the front seven, as usual.
Injury analysis, Eagles edition
The only three Eagles to miss practice Thursday were wide receivers, but Maclin and Jackson returned Friday. The other, Riley Cooper, is likely out, while Jackson is almost sure to play and be OK. Maclin won't likely be 100 percent with his hip injury.
As I mentioned, this means Avant could play a large role, and Vick might also look to Celek more often than usual. The Eagles offense will be slightly shorthanded, especially when you consider that King Dunlap's at left tackle.
Injury analysis, Ravens edition
Baltimore's on a short week, but the entire team was on the field at Friday's practice. That includes Ed Reed, who hurt his hamstring Monday night against Cincinnati.
Who will win Sunday's game?
Both teams are fairly healthy, but the Ravens probably have the edge here because Philly is so banged up in one particular spot.
B/R NFC East Blog prediction
The thing about the Eagles is they're talented enough to win big yet unstable enough to get blown out. I do feel they'll be better at home, and I don't expect Vick to struggle as badly. Plus, I think even Andy Reid knows they need more McCoy.
That said, I don't trust them enough right now to pick them over a Baltimore team that looks to be hitting an early stride.
Ravens 23, Eagles 20
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