No matter what local fans might wish, the Ravens don’t have any real rivalry with the Washington Redskins.
But that doesn’t mean Sunday’s game isn’t important for Baltimore with two straight road games looming ahead of the Week 8 bye and a difficult second half of the season. The Ravens don’t want to lose a second consecutive home game and all semblance of momentum after a 3-0 start.
Washington has shaken off an 0-2 start at home to win its last two contests and will try to improve to 2-0 on the road behind the NFL’s eighth-ranked offense.
It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens welcome Washington to M&T Bank Stadium for just the second time ever in the regular season. Baltimore is 3-2 in the all-time series, but the Redskins won the last regular-season meeting between these teams, a 31-28 overtime finish in Landover on Dec. 9, 2012.
Below are five predictions for Sunday:
1. Rookie Alex Lewis will shift outside to left tackle to help stabilize Baltimore’s pass protection. With Ronnie Stanley expected to miss his second straight game, Lewis will get the call to play tackle and will be an upgrade from the overmatched James Hurst. It helps that Washington lacks an explosive pass rush and outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is questionable to play with an elbow injury, but the Ravens could still have their hands full with edge rusher Trent Murphy, who already has four sacks. Washington will collect two sacks, but Joe Flacco will deal with a cleaner pocket than last week.
2. Washington tight end Jordan Reed will find the end zone against a shaky red-zone defense from the Ravens. The Baltimore defense is one of the best in the NFL despite opponents going 7-for-8 scoring touchdowns in trips to the red zone, but Washington ranks 30th in red-zone offense so far this year. The Ravens have been very good against tight ends all season, but the linebacker coverage showed some cracks against Oakland last week and Reed is the best tight end they’ve faced all year. He’ll finish off a long drive with a touchdown catch against Baltimore.
3. Kenneth Dixon will flash in his debut, but Terrance West will lead the way against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. After facing a shoddy Oakland defense last week, the Ravens will find plenty of room against a group allowing 4.9 yards per carry this season. Dixon will receive a handful of touches as a change of pace, but West deserves to carry the load after rushing for a career-high 113 yards last week. He may not reach that mark again, but Baltimore will commit to the run early and gain 135 yards to move the chains and keep Flacco from having to throw it 40-plus times again.
4. The Ravens defense will force Kirk Cousins to throw more than 40 times and pick him off at a critical moment. Baltimore ranks fifth in run defense and is allowing 3.7 yards per carry despite giving up an 85-yard touchdown run in Week 2. Meanwhile, the Washington offense thrives with an effective running game and would like to limit Cousins’ attempts from the pocket. The Ravens will come up on the winning end in this battle as they’ve allowed 2.7 yards per carry on non-Isaiah Crowell touchdowns this season. Washington’s reliance on the pass will lead to a crucial fourth-quarter turnover.
5. The Baltimore offense will be more balanced and efficient while the defense will bend without breaking in a 24-19 win over the Redskins. It’s impossible to expect anything but a close game on Sunday as the Ravens haven’t won a game by more than one possession since the 2014 postseason and 18 of their last 20 regular-season games have been decided by one possession. However, the Washington defense ranks 29th in yards allowed and will be without starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland. The Redskins will move the ball with an effective passing game, but the Ravens will make the adjustments to clean up their red-zone defense this week, which will be the difference in a close game.