The Baltimore Ravens take on the Philadelphia Eagles tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. Here are five questions I have going into this game.
1. Can the Ravens contain the pass rush that will be applied by a stout front four of the Eagles?
This is my deciding factor in determining the winner of this game. The Ravens did a fairly decent job in giving Joe Flacco plenty of time to make decisions last week against the Cincinnati Bengals. The pocket seemed at expand on most plays giving Flacco daylight to make the deep throws like he did to Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. However, this week they are facing two different animals in Jason Babin (18 sacks last season) and Trent Cole (11 sacks last season). Cole sometimes gets lost in the arguments surrounding the Eagles because of all the free agents they brought in last season, but he as no doubt been one of the most consistent players on their defense. Since 2006, his second season in the league, Cole has tallied at least eight sacks a season and rarely misses a start. Babin has been more of a rising star as of late (30.5 sacks in his last two seasons) and has taken advantage of facing lesser tackles on the right side of the offensive line. This week will no doubt be one of the toughest tests for bot Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele as they try to corral these two stout defensive ends. Also, Cullen Jenkins might give Ramon Harewood a hard time as the rookie left guard makes his second career NFL start Sunday.
2. Will the Ravens be able to set the edge against a speedy Eagles offense?
In the game against the Bengals, the defense did okay in this aspect of the game. It wasn’t an overarching problem as the offense was raining down points, forcing Cincinnati to throw the ball more than advertised. This week, the Ravens have to not only face the shifty and creative running back of the Philadelphia Eagles LeSean McCoy, but also the scrambling extraordinaire, Michael Vick. Paul Kruger, Albert McClellan and Courtney Upshaw need this test early on to see how far they’ve progressed. None of them were outstanding on Monday night, but none of them were overly impressive either. The key with the outside linebackers is to keep McCoy and Vick inside the tackles. McCoy is one of the best runners in the league when it comes to hitting the line, cutting horizontally and creating big play opportunities for himself. Hopefully, this game will have fans forgetting about the release of Jarret Johnson.
3. How much no-huddle will be featured tomorrow in the offensive attack for the Ravens?
The no huddle worked well for the Ravens in keeping the defense off-guard last week. Joe Flacco looked the most comfortable orchestrating the offense his way, for the most part, and the rest of the offense seemed to respond well to the new pace. Conditioning didn’t appear to be a problem for anyone other than the Bengals as they were forced to leave players on the field much longer than intended. This week, I expect to see more of the same as the Eagles, like most teams, have certain packages they like use i certain situations, whether it’s bringing in an extra defensive back or bringing in more lineman to keep Babin and Cole fresh. The Eagles make these substitutions to make up for their lack of depth at the linebacker spot and it will be interesting to see if they can keep up with these new-look Ravens.
4. Will Ray Rice have more than 25 touches this week?
Last week, Ray Rice touched the ball a mere 13 times and scored on two of those touches. His services simply weren’t required last week as the aerial attack was clicking on all cylinders. With Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie this week, it will be harder for the receivers to not only get open, but to make plays in space. In order for the Ravens to win this game, the Ravens will have to stick to their roots and establish the run early, setting the defense up for the no-huddle offense in the middle quarters. By the time the fourth quarter arrives, a heavy dosage of Rice and no-huddle with little to no substitutions bodes well for the Ravens.
5. Who is going to win the game?
I’m not going to crucify the Eagles for barely defeating the Cleveland Browns last week in the ever-so hostile environment that is Cleveland Browns Stadium. Honestly, one of the uglier games on the slate last week as Michael Vick should have joined Brandon Weeden and hid underneath the American flag. I will attribute it more to Vick seeing limited action in the preseason, rather than knocking his abilities as a quarterback. That being said, Michael Vick is not going to win this game for the Eagles, his defense is going to lose it. While four interceptions against Brandon Weeden is nice, it is Brandon Weeden. The Browns have virtually no offensive weapons at the skill positions and the Ravens have some of the best team-speed in franchise history. Where I think the Ravens will have the most success is in the the middle of the field, where Demeco Ryans will have t deal with the likes of Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. If the Ravens can protect Flacco and keep the pace of the game in their control and not allow Philadelphia to make substitutions, the Ravens should handle the Eagles.
Final Score: Ravens over the Eagles 34-20.
Get ready to wear that purple tutu Brett!
Follow me on Twitter @Jeff_Kryglik for all things Baltimore Sports.