Here’s what will happen when the Ravens travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday for their fourth ever meeting in the regular season …
1. After receiving only 13 touches in Week 1, Ray Rice factors more heavily in the offense and cracks the 100-yard mark on the ground against the Eagles defense. It will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and quarterback Joe Flacco attack Philadelphia in the early stages with the Eagles possessing such a strong pass rush and secondary. The Eagles are vulnerable against the run and allowed 99 yards on the ground to Cleveland last week. If the offense is to be successful on Sunday, Rice will play a larger role because it’s difficult envisioning Flacco chucking the ball all over the field with defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole bearing down on him and cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie looming in the defensive backfield. The Ravens may come out throwing early, but they will quickly find more success with Rice carrying the ball between the tackles and trying to get the ball in open space.
2. Not to be outdone by Rice, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy runs for 90 yards and a touchdown against a defense that struggles to set the edge against the shifty back. The Ravens already faced questions about their ability to control the edge against the run, and injuries to linebacker Paul Kruger and defensive end Pernell McPhee will limit their availability on Sunday. McCoy is a far more pedestrian runner between the tackles, but the 2011 Pro Bowl running back thrives in open space and the Ravens will give him daylight too often in the early going. Facing injuries at the wide receiver position, the Eagles would be wise to rely heavily on McCoy’s talents against the Baltimore defense. Baltimore struggled to stop Cincinnati’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis last week and will have fits trying to keep McCoy in check.
3. Tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson combine for a dozen catches and 130 yards as Baltimore’s wide receivers struggle to gain separation. Torrey Smith will likely be blanketed by Asomugha and intermediate target Anquan Boldin will likely draw Rodgers-Cromartie, meaning Flacco will look more to his tight ends than he already does. Pitta led the Ravens with five catches and 73 yards while adding a touchdown against the Bengals as he picked up right where he left off last year in becoming a bigger part of the passing game. However, the Ravens will likely use more two-wide receiver sets with fullback Vonta Leach in the game to lead the way for Rice, which is a personnel set in which Dickson plays more often. Regardless of who’s in the game at tight end — the Ravens like having both on the field as well — Pitta and Dickson will have the upper hand against the Philadelphia linebackers and safeties to make up for the struggles the wide receivers will likely encounter. Quick passes to the tight ends will also aid an offensive line that will have its hands full with Philadelphia’s front four.
4. The defense struggles to pressure Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, but the secondary forces a key fourth-quarter turnover with wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin less than 100 percent. Both starting receivers missed practice time this week and will not be playing at 100 percent on Sunday, which will help the Baltimore secondary a great deal. The Ravens failed to create much pressure against the Bengals and it will be the same story Sunday as Kruger and McPhee play at less than 100 percent. That being said, Vick threw four interceptions against the Browns last week and could be forced to rely more heavily on possession receiver Jason Avant and McCoy out of the backfield with Jackson and Maclin ailing. Always a phenomenal athlete, Vick is still prone to make the critical mistake and the Ravens’ secondary is too talented not to take advantage, even without an effective pass rush to help the unit. In a one-possession game, Vick continues that trend and that turnover will factor heavily in deciding the outcome.
5. After hearing all week about their Week 2 letdowns in 2010 and 2011, the Ravens beat a good team on the road with a 27-24 victory in Philadelphia. Coach John Harbaugh addressed the possibility of a Week 2 meltdown with his team at the beginning of the week and the Ravens want to erase the memories of what happened in the second week of the season in each of the last two seasons. Unlike last season when the Ravens took on what looked to be the underwhelming Tennessee Titans, it’s difficult to overlook an Eagles team with such tremendous talent on both sides of the ball, which likely helped their focus in making preparations this week. Of course, this doesn’t mean the Ravens are immune from another Week 2 loss, but they shouldn’t be caught by surprise this time around. Despite facing a defense with a great pass rush and secondary, the Ravens offense shows once again why it’s a force to be reckoned with as Rice’s big day and an efficient Flacco lead Baltimore to a 2-0 start.