Finally, the Ravens return to Baltimore and get to play in front of the home crowd. Coming off an embarrassing performance in the Meadowlands, the Ravens defense is poised to play their best game of the season.
Brian Westbrook is battling an ankle injury and has not yet participated in practice this week. Westbrook is the support beam for the Eagles offense. If he doesn’t play, the Eagles offense takes a totally different shape. Donovan McNabb did not play well last week against a rather pathetic Bengals defense.
Unfortunately, on the other side of the football, things aren’t looking so good. It looks like Jared Gaither won’t play, and Willie Anderson has been limited in practice all week. With the Eagles defense leading the NFL in sacks with 36, Joe Flacco could be running for his life on Sunday. When I last saw Derrick Mason he was in a sling, and he told reporters earlier this week that he is uncertain about whether or not he’ll play.
I think that if the Ravens were completely healthy, this would be an easy Baltimore victory. But the banged up offensive line creates some severe personnel match-up problems. Oneal Cousins trying to block Trent Cole and Darren Howard? Yeah…right…
The Ravens need this win with Miami and New England breathing down their neck in the AFC wild card race. Baltimore, Miami, and New England all have 6-4 records, but at this point the Ravens hold the tie-breaker. And either the Dolphins or the Patriots will pick up a win this week as both teams will square off in Miami.
My prediction: The Ravens know what’s at stake and will find a way to win this week, but Joe Flacco must be protected in order for that to happen. Look for more Troy Smith this week.
Ravens – 23
Pivotal match-up: Ravens Offensive Line vs. Eagles Defensive Line.
Where it could all go wrong: The old adage: protect the football and protect the quarterback. If both of those things happen, the Ravens will win this game. I don’t see the Eagles doing much on offense with an unhealthy Brian Westbrook.
Surprising statistic: The Eagles are 37-1 when McNabb has a passer rating over 100.
Last Week’s winner would have been Ravenator if he would have picked the Giants to win, but the check mark goes to Johnny Rocket, who predicted a 31-11 Ravens loss. My pick: 23-20 Giants. Actual score: 30-10 Giants.
Week 10 Winner: My man Franchise gets the check mark, predicting a 31-10 Ravens victory. Remember when Ozzie Newsome was getting verbally crucified on the airwaves? I guess all of us should trust the Franchise. My pick: 29-12 Ravens. Actual Score: 41-13 Ravens.
Week 9 Winner: Johnny Rocket picked the closest score, predicting a 22-16 Ravens win. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the Ravens to put up 37 points on the road. My pick: 23-17 Browns. Actual score: 37-27 Ravens.
Week 8 winner: Nestminder is our first back-to-back winner, picking the Ravens to win 24-6. We had a record-low in the number of predictions received, but we can rebound this week. We’ll chalk that one up to the new website. My pick: 27-6 Ravens. Actual score: 29-10 Ravens
Week 7 winner: Nestminder picked a 20-13 Ravens victory and Polostat was a close second. My pick: 24-16 Ravens. Actual score: 27-13 Ravens.
Week 6 winner: Johnny Rocket correctly picked against the Ravens, per usual, predicting a 32-8 Colts victory. My pick: 28-23 Colts. Actual score: 31-3 Colts.
Week 5 winner: Columbia Ken picked the closest score, predicting a 17-13 Titans victory. My pick: 17-9 Ravens. Actual score: 13-10 Titans
Week 4 winner: Jon R. reluctantly picked a 24-20 win for the Steelers. My pick: 13-10 Ravens. Actual score: 23-20 Steelers (OT)
Week 3 winner: EazyE picked a 23-13 win for the Ravens vs. Cleveland. My pick: 23-13 Ravens. Actual score: 24-10 Ravens.
What are your predictions this week?