A one way rivalry looms this week for the Baltimore Ravens and their fans.
The Washington Redskins come into town to play their first game in Baltimore, in a game that undoubtedly means more to the fans of Baltimore than to the fans of Washington or even the players for both teams.
This week, players from both teams have parroted the company line that this is just the next game, and each team needs this win to boost their playoff chances.
The Ravens currently stand at 8-4, good for second place in the AFC North, one game and a tiebreaker behind the Pittsburgh Steelers. They also currently hold the No.6 spot in the current playoff seeding, with a full game lead, and a tiebreaker lead (conference record) on the 7-5 New England Patriots.
The Washington Redskins are 7-5 good for third in the very tough NFC East, and currently hold the No.8 spot in the playoff standings right now, behind the Dallas Cowboys (8-4) and the Atlanta Falcons (8-4) and if the season ended today, they would be out of the playoffs.
A win is essential for both teams, for the Ravens, a win helps them keep pace with Pittsburgh, and ties them with the Steelers if the Steelers lose a very losable game against the Dallas Cowboys this week.
The Redskins are really hoping for a Dallas loss and a win of their own this week as this would move them a spot ahead of the Cowboys both in the division, and in the wildcard hunt.
Injuries could wind up playing a key factor in this game with the main story being Clinton Portis who is second in the league in rushing yards and is averaging nearly five yards a carry not participating in practice this week with knee and back injuries.
Other key Redskins Injuries are cornerback Shaun Springs (calf) and tackle Chris Samuels (knee).
The Ravens are far from injury free, however, and the following Ravens either were limited in practice, or did not participate this week: Derrick Mason (shoulder), Willis McGahee (illness) Ed Reed (thigh) Samari Rolle (thigh) and Jared Gaither (shoulder).
As a lifelong follower of the Ravens it has become clear over the years that when a Raven is listed as having a thigh injury, nine times out of ten it is a hamstring issue. These could be key with Washington having a speedy wide receiver corps who can get behind you quickly and make plays. If Shawn Springs is unable to go, it would provide a big boost to the passing game of the Ravens, although the nickle and dime backs for the Redskins, Deangelo Hall, and Fred Smoot could start on most teams.
Clinton Portis' injury could be a huge factor in this game, although the Ravens are ranked No. 2 in total rushing defense, they have not faced a back who is in the top five in rushing yards all year.
Even if he plays I don't see Clinton Portis running on the Ravens like the Giants did a few weeks ago; however, he offers a better option for the Redskins then backup Ladell Betts. Betts is a very capable backup; however, with the rush defense of the Ravens being as good as it is, their best chance to even manage a servicable running game is with Portis.
If I were a gambling man, I wouldn't be against Portis playing as he is seemingly a game time decision every week and has yet to miss a game this year.
The Redskins are a very underrated defense and are not viewed as dominant, but the numbers show another story.
As far as the rankings go the Redskins rank No.7 in Rush Defense allowing 90 yards per game, No.7 in Pass Defense allowing 192 yards in the air per game, and No.6 in Points allowed averaging 18.5 points per game.
On offense, the numbers are a little less balanced with the Redskins ranking No.5 in rushing with 139.4 yards per game on the ground, and No.20 in passing averaging just a tick under 200 yards passing per game.
The most telling number offensively, however, could be total points scored as this is a unit that is averaging eight points a game over the last three and are currently ranked 28th in the league in total points scored, averaging 17.3 yards per game.
On the Ravens side of the ball, the story is and has always been the Defense.
The Ravens rank No.3 against the rush giving up only 78.2 yards a game, a number which is slightly skewed based on the 200+ yard day the Giants had against this defense.
The Ravens rank second in pass defense, giving up only 175 yards through the air. This number is particularly impressive when taking into account the fact that the Ravens also have the largest margin of victory in the NFL this year at 19 points per game.
Despite the fact that opponents are quick to abandon the run in an attempt to play catch up to the Ravens in the third and fourth quarter, the banged up Ravens secondary and front seven have been excellent in defensing the pass.
On offense, the Ravens are a rapidly improving unit and Joe Flacco holds the highest passer rating in the NFL over the last eight games. I'll let you think about that for a second before I continue.
In a league with Kurt Warner, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Drew Brees, Joe Flacco is the highest rated passer over the last eight games. That is not something I thought possible with this Ravens team going into this year. The Ravens are third in the league in Rush Offense averaging 143.8 yards per game, and are 27th in the league averaging 179 yards in the air per game. The Ravens are 11th in total scoring at 24.3 points per game.
For the sake of clarity, and to help wrap your heads around the numbers, here's a chart:
Category Ravens Rank(Average Per Game) Redskins Rank(Average per game)
Rush Defense 3(143.8) 7(90.4)
Pass Defense 2 (175) 7(192)
Scoring Defense 3(15.8) 6(18.5)
Rush Offense 3(143.8) 5(139.4)
Pass Offense 27(179) 20(199.7)
Scoring Offense 11(24.3) 28(17.3)
Many Ravens fans are drinking the purple Kool-Aid and thinking the Ravens will go in and dominate the Redskins on offense and put up points at will as they have the past couple of weeks.
I don't feel this will be the case.
I think the Redskins defense is good enough and hungry enough to keep this game close; however, I feel in the end, the pass rush will be far more effective for the Ravens, and am projecting 3-4 sacks for them this game.
I feel the Redskins will have between 1-2 sacks on Joe Flacco, and I predict the Ravens secondary will come up with enough plays for this defense to score one time as they have in their last two games.
I also feel the defense for the Ravens will be able to win the field position battle all day.
My final prediction is this, the numbers will be skewed in the Ravens favor defensively, the Redskins will be unable to run the ball and Jason Campbell will throw two picks or more.
The Ravens, however, will struggle to run the ball and pass it effectively, but will do enough to win this game.
Home Field Advantage will also be a factor as the Ravens are even tougher to beat at home. Prediciton of the final score, the city of Baltimore proves that they were right to not build a museum and the Ravens win 24-10.