Eagles-Ravens: Predictions Roundtable
Members of the Bleacher Report Baltimore Ravens Community break down Sunday's battle between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Baltimore Ravens.
Luke Jones: Though the Ravens should already be highly-motivated trying to bounce back from last week's humbling 30-10 loss to the New York Giants, head coach John Harbaugh faces his old team for the first time.
Having spent 10 years as an assistant in Philadelphia, Harbaugh hopes to show Andy Reid and the Eagles his head coaching pedigree. Harbaugh and Reid have much respect for each other.
The 6-4 Ravens are still in the middle of the AFC playoff race but need a win to remain one game behind Pittsburgh in the AFC North. The Ravens are currently tied with three other AFC teams (Indianapolis, Miami, and New England) battling for Wild Card spots.
On the other hand, the 5-4-1 Eagles find themselves in last place in the brutal NFC East after a rare tie with Cincinnati last week. While Philadelphia is still in the playoff mix, a loss to the Ravens would provide a canyon to climb out of in the NFC.
The Eagles will attempt to exploit a Ravens' secondary that continues to bend but not break without cornerback Chris McAlister and safety Dawan Landry, both on injured reserve.
Philadelphia's fourth-ranked passing offense will try to mix short passes to running back Brian Westbrook and shots downfield to rookie wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
The Ravens will need to get consistent pressure on quarterback Donovan McNabb to prevent the Eagles' passing game from finding its rhythm. Despite holding a solid 84.7 quarterback rating, McNabb has thrown five interceptions in his last three games.
Westbrook and the Eagles' running game will have a difficult time getting anything going on the ground, facing the third-best rush defense in the league.
On the other side, the Ravens will try to crank up the running game against the Eagles' 11th-ranked rush defense. It's no coincidence the Ravens win when they run the ball successfully.
Of the Ravens' four losses, they failed to rush for more than 132 yards in any game. The Eagles will need to keep an eye on running back Ray Rice, as the rookie brings more diversity to the Ravens' backfield.
The Ravens' banged-up offensive line must protect quarterback Joe Flacco from the Eagles' dangerous blitzing packages. Adam Terry is expected to start at left tackle in place of the injured Jared Gaither. Right tackle Willie Anderson is expected to return to the starting lineup.
The Eagles have sacked the quarterback 36 times this season, tied for first in the NFL.
Wide receiver Derrick Mason is still bothered by a sore shoulder but is Flacco's best receiver. If the offensive line can keep Flacco upright, Mason will be able to move the chains against the Eagles' secondary.
This game comes down to how well the Ravens will be able to run the ball against the Philadelphia defense and how effectively McNabb can pass on the Baltimore secondary. The Ravens' running game will allow the home team to control the clock, keeping the Eagles' talented passing game off the field.
Playing before the M&T Bank Stadium crowd for the first time in a month, the Ravens will be on a mission to avenge the humiliating loss to the Giants. The Eagles will be competing for their playoff lives but will come up short in Baltimore.
The prediction: Ravens 21-17
Sean O'Brien: Philadelphia is coming off an embarrassing tie and currently sits in last place in the NFC East. You can bet they will be fired up to try and score a win and keep their playoff hopes alive. On the other side, the Ravens' defense coughed up a 30-10 loss to the G-Men last week and will be looking to prove themselves.
Is it just me, or is Joe Flacco cursed whenever he plays the Mannings to have a setback game? Though neither pick was 100 percent his fault, Flacco broke a four-game streak without an interception by throwing two.
This week, Flacco will be up against a secondary that the Bungles' SECOND-STRING quarterback tore apart. "Bazooka" Joe will connect with Derrick Mason at least 2-3 times for 20+ yards this game.
The Eagles will come out testing the run with Brian Westbrook in an effort to copy the Giants, but Westbrook is no Jacobs, and Ray Lewis simply won't allow that to happen.
A banged-up Ravens' secondary may very well give up some points to McNabb and rookie DeSean Jackson through the air.
If this game becomes a shootout, the advantage goes to the Eagles.
The Philly defense will blitz Flacco and try to force turnovers, leaving the middle of the field open for short passes to tight end Todd Heap.
That means the key for a Baltimore win will be establishing the run and using short, controlled passes to pick apart and wear down this defense. If Flacco and fellow rookie Ray Rice can keep the Eagles' defense on the field and control the clock, Philly will start making bad coaching decisions and McNabb will turn the ball over.
The prediction: Ravens 27-20
Isaac Barrow: Following a 30-10 loss to the New York Giants, the Ravens will need a win against Philadelphia to remain in playoff contention. The Ravens are a very respectable 6-4, second behind Pittsburgh (7-3) in the AFC North.
However, the Philadelphia Eagles (5-4-1), are coming off a tie of the second-worst team in football, Cincinnati.
It was a game in which the Eagles ran 78 plays, passing on 58 of them. It was a game in which Donovan McNabb threw three interceptions and Brian Westbrook was only handed the ball 14 times for 60 yards, a mediocre line for one of the most dangerous football players alive.
The Eagles' defense didn't show such great fierceness as they did in a 15-6 win over Pittsburgh. They allowed 261 yards, one touchdown and no picks to Ryan Fitzpatrick. T.J. Houshmandzadeh ran circles around them, catching 12 passes, 149 yards, and one touchdown.
In a 30-10 loss, the Ravens' defense didn't show up. They allowed 207 rushing yards against the best running attack in all of football. In my opinion, Joe Flacco helped his chances of winning Rookie of the Year. Call me crazy.
While 164 yards and two picks isn't good, they weren't horrible picks. The first one was one where Aaron Ross jumped in front of a receiver, catching the ball. It showed Flacco's pinpoint accuracy because he missed a receiver by about a millimeter.
The second one should've been a simple eight-yard catch. Instead, it was a 50-yard interception return for a Giants' touchdown. On a pass to Derrick Mason, the catch was bobbled, and Ross again picked it off and took it the house.
As for matchups, the Ravens are second in the AFC North, while the Eagles stand last in the NFC East. The Ravens have the 19th-best offense while the Eagles have the sixth. The Ravens have the 29th-best pass offense; Eagles have the fourth. The Ravens have the third-best run offense; Eagles have the 26th. Ravens have the third-best defense; Eagles have the seventh.
The Eagles are coming off two very frustrating games. An epic failure to convert on 4th-and-1 loomed large in a 36-31 loss to New York and they tied with the second-worst team in football last week.
Joe Flacco should shred this Eagles secondary to pieces. The Eagles allow just 194 yards per game but have picked off just nine passes. And I think we can all agree that Ryan Fitzpatrick does not have the arm Flacco does.
If Fitzgerald can shred this defense, Flacco can. In the last three games, they have picked off just two passes, compared to four touchdowns. That doesn't sound like an awful defense, but they did it against three guys, two of which aren't very good.
Seneca Wallace threw one TD and no picks, Fitzpatrick threw 1-0, and Manning threw 2-1.
The 26th-best run offense the Eagles posses certainly benefits the Ravens, who allow 79.6 rush yards per game.
The prediction: Ravens 20-6
The Baltimore Ravens Community would like to hear your predictions for Sunday's game. Will the Ravens keep pace in the AFC North? Or will the Eagles climb their way back into the playoff race in the NFC? Leave your comments below.
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