Philadelphia Eagles: 6 Matchups to Watch for Against the Baltimore Ravens
As Joe Flacco showed last week, the Ravens have the potential to be one of the NFL’s elite offenses, and their defense is also a top-notch unit.
The Eagles cannot afford to play the way they did against the Cleveland Browns, or they’ll be blown out of the stadium. The Ravens have a stacked team, and the Eagles need their best players to outplay the Ravens’ five best.
The following matchups will be key to the game.
Michael Vick vs. Ed Reed
Last time the Philadelphia Eagles played the Baltimore Ravens, All-Pro safety Ed Reed picked off backup Kevin Kolb and took it 108 yards to the house, setting a record for the longest interception return in NFL history in the process.
Considering Michael Vick is coming off a four-interception game against the Cleveland Browns, his performance is critical to the Eagles winning this contest.
Reed is a notorious ball hawk who loves to bait opposing quarterbacks. He already has an interception return for a touchdown this season, and he has 30 interceptions in his last 70 games, a pace that averages out to seven picks per 16-game season.
LeSean McCoy vs. Ray Lewis
The Philadelphia Eagles have one of the best all-around running backs in the NFL, as LeSean McCoy is capable of carrying the ball at least 25 times per game while adding five-to-seven receptions out of the backfield.
The Baltimore Ravens had one of the league’s stingiest defenses in 2011, finishing third best in scoring defense, third in overall defense and second in run defense.
The Ravens will have future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, in his 17th professional season, patrolling the middle of the field.
Considering that the Ravens are without reigning defensive player of the year Terrell Suggs, Lewis’ performance will be even more critical.
Ray Rice vs. DeMeco Ryans
Even though DeMeco Ryans played his entire career in Houston before coming over to Philadelphia this past offseason, Ryans is aware of just how talented a player Ray Rice is.
In 2010, Ryans helped the Houston Texans hold Rice to just 54 yards and no touchdowns on 19 carries, a paltry average of 2.9 yards per carry. Last year, Rice fared much better against the Texans, putting up 101 ground yards on 23 carries plus five receptions for 60 more yards, although he still didn’t find the end zone.
Rice has the potential to get anywhere from 15-25 carries and catch as many as 10-12 passes out of the backfield. He’s the focal point of the Baltimore Ravens offense for the simple fact that he’s incredibly talented and can handle a full workload.
The Philadelphia Eagles absolutely cannot let Rice run wild on them.
Lardarius Webb vs. DeSean Jackson
The Baltimore Ravens got a breakout season from Lardarius Webb in 2011, and their best corner will assuredly go up against speedy deep threat DeSean Jackson.
Jackson has the ability to burn even the best of cornerbacks on go routes, and Webb will have his hands full in this matchup. Last year, Webb didn’t allow a single touchdown pass all season while recording five interceptions, and he held opposing quarterbacks to just a 55.6 passer rating on 90 targets.
The winner of this matchup could easily determine the outcome of the game.
Nnamdi Asomugha vs. Torrey Smith
Likewise, the Philadelphia Eagles’ top corner, Nnamdi Asomugha, will be pairing up against a speedster, in this case Torrey Smith of the Baltimore Ravens.
Smith had a fine rookie season, recording 50 receptions for 841 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging an impressive 16.7 yards per reception. He has the ability to break deep passes just as much as DeSean Jackson, and Smith showed that back in his first-ever NFL game, when he torched the St. Louis Rams for three touchdowns in the first quarter.
Asomugha allowed just one 24-yard reception in the opening week, while Brandon Weeden completed just 20 percent of his passes thrown in Asomguha’s way, leading to a 47.6 passer rating.
He’s a top-notch cover corner for a reason, and he better prove it when he lines up against Smith, a player who has the potential to be a Pro Bowl receiver in this league within a few years.
Andy Reid vs. John Harbaugh
This matchup puts Andy Reid up against his former special-teams coach, and the two are among the finest head coaches in the game.
Reid has his share of playoff wins over the years, as everyone knows, but Harbaugh has done pretty well for himself in just four years as the leader of the Baltimore Ravens. He’s taken the team to the playoffs all four seasons, winning a playoff game every year and appearing in two conference championship games.
The only time the two met previously, Harbaugh completely outcoached Reid, when the former's Baltimore Ravens beat the Philadelphia Eagles by a 36-7 score back in 2008.
In that contest, Reid made one of the more controversial decisions in recent years when he benched Donovan McNabb to go with unproven second-year player Kevin Kolb (although Reid did start McNabb in each game for the rest of the season).
To win this game, the Eagles absolutely cannot call for the same unbalanced pass-to-run ratio they had last week, when LeSean McCoy accumulated just seven carries in the first half and Michael Vick ended the contest with 56 pass attempts, by far his career high.