Baltimore Ravens AT Philadelphia Eagles

Posted: September 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

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Date and Time: Sunday, September 16th, 2012 – 1:00 PM
Spread: 
Eagles, -2.5
Network: 
CBS
Announcers: 
Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf
Last Meeting: 
November 23rd, 2008 – Ravens def. Eagles 36-7

The History

The Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles only get to play once every four years. With the way the schedule is orchestrated, the AFC North and NFC East always meet during a presidential election year. Their all-time record is 1-1-1; having played just twice since a 1997 tie in Baltimore in Bobby Hoying’s first NFL start (shudder). In their last meeting in November, 2008, the Ravens absolutely pummeled the Eagles en route to a 36-7 victory in John Harbaugh’s first season as head coach in Baltimore after serving under Andy Reid as an Eagles’ assistant since 1999.

That game came a week following the Eagles’ disappointing 13-13 tie in Cincinnati in which Donovan McNabb was famously quoted as having not known the NFL overtime rules. As one can see, McNabb was tormented by Baltimore prior to being benched in favor of Kevin Kolb in the second half. Four days later, the Eagles rebounded against Arizona and set off a furious fight to the finish that eventually culminated in an NFC Championship Game loss to the Cardinals.

The Eagles

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The good news is, this is a much different Eagles team than it was four years ago. McNabb, Brian Westbrook, and Kevin Curtis are now retired. They’re replaced by Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, and Jeremy Maclin. A lot has been made of Vick’s struggles last week against Cleveland. But, prior to that game, Vick had an abundance of success against AFC North opponents in his career. His 5-3-1 record against the division includes a 2002 tie against Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, his 15 TD – 10 INT ratio looks much more impressive when one considers that he threw four interceptions just last week. He has not had a lot of experience against Baltimore, going 1-1 in two games with a 51.1 completion percentage and a 67.2 passer rating.

“Shady” McCoy will need to be a lethal weapon this Sunday if Philadelphia hopes to walk out of Lincoln Financial Field with a victory. His numbers last week (26 total touches for 136 yards) were good. But, the play calling focused too much on the passing game and there were points during the 2nd and 3rd quarter where McCoy became an afterthought as Vick dropped back to pass 56 times in the game.

On defense, Philadelphia experienced their finest game statistically in years. Cleveland QB Brandon Weeden looked like the 28-year old rookie he was as he was limited to just 12 completions on 35 attempts and was intercepted four times. The Eagles had a decent pass rush. But, they’ll hope that Trent Cole can make more of an impact after being held sack-less in week one.

The Ravens

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The Ravens experienced the thrill of victory on Monday night, blowing out a divisional rival for the second consecutive season on opening weekend, 44-13 over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Baltimore’s offense has long relied on ball control and physicality. Expect a lot of Ray Rice (10 carries for 68 yards) after he received a limited workload against the Bengals. Their receiving corps is highlighted by big, bruising possession receiver Anquan Boldin and speedy, young target Torrey Smith. The Eagles completely shut down Cleveland’s passing game last week. But, Boldin and Smith combined for 6 receptions and 120 yards last week and should give Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie more of a test.

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The Ravens’ defense is not quite what it used to be. But, they’re still a formidable bunch. MLB Ray Lewis (pictured) and FS Ed Reed are the veteran leaders who, despite injuries and fatigue, still contribute to their teams. Meanwhile, NT Haloti Ngata is perhaps the most difficult defensive lineman to match up against in the NFL. His combination of size and speed make him a terror for lines to deal with. If the Eagles are to keep Michael Vick out of intensive care, the offensive line will need to improve on their penalty filled performance in Cleveland.

The Facts

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– Think the Ravens’ defense has been good for a long time? Baltimore is the only team in the NFL to have four defensive coordinators become head coaches in a ten-year span. In 2003, Cincinnati named Marvin Lewis (the mastermind of the 2000 Super Bowl champion defense) head coach and he has remained there ever since. From 2005-2008, Lewis’ successor, Mike Nolan, was head coach in San Francisco. His tenure was memorable mostly for his choice of dress suits instead of track suits on the sideline rather than anything that happened on the field. In 2009, the New York Jets announced that Rex Ryan, then the Ravens’ D-Coordinator, would become their new head coach. He has since led his team to two AFC title games. Finally, Chuck Pagano was named Indianapolis’ coach after just one season as coordinator in 2011. It’s also worth noting that Mike Singletary (SF 2008-2010), Jack Del Rio (JAX 2003-2011), and Mike Smith (ATL 2008-present) were Ravens’ assistant coaches prior to earning their head coaching positions.

– Most of the Eagles’ defensive players have never played Baltimore. In fact, the only Eagle on defense with more than one game experience against the Ravens is DeMeco Ryans, who had 11 tackles in two career games (both losses).

– Concerned about the Ravens’ week one domination against Cincinnati and what that could mean for the Eagles? Don’t fret. Baltimore is typically mediocre on the road (8-8 the past two seasons). Last year, the Ravens opened up the season with a primetime domination of the Pittsburgh Steelers at home, 35-7. The following week, they laid an egg in Tennessee, falling on the road, 26-13.

The Pick

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On my official predictions, I went with the Ravens. It would be unethical for me to change my pick now, right? Well, there are no ethics in blogging. So, I’ll make like a Mitt Romney for the first time in my life and flip-flop.

Why the Eagles will win: Philadelphia comes in fresh off just about the ugliest win you will ever witness. But, there are a few things that we learned in that game that will greatly aid them this week. First, the Eagles’ defense is for real. After a let-down in 2011 under first year coordinator Juan Castillo, the Birds flew through Cleveland, forcing turnover after turnover and limiting Trent Richardson on the ground. If a team wants to know the blueprint to defeating Baltimore, it all starts with stopping Ray Rice in the ground and screen games. Cleveland did not try many screens last week. Expect Baltimore to bait the blitz then attempt to beat them with the screen.

Second, Joe Flacco is wildly inconsistent. People have been trying to anoint the former Delaware Blue Hen as elite for years. But, he can never seem to keep it together when it matters the most. Last year, Flacco followed up a beautiful 17-29, 3 TD performance to open the season against Pittsburgh with a brutal 15-32, 2 interception display against Tennessee. The following week, rebounded by going 27-48 with 3 TD against St. Louis. The next two weeks after that were mired with inconsistency (including a 10-31 performance against the Jets). Flacco has not been able to prove that he is a consistent, elite QB. It is for this reason that he can’t be relied upon to match his impressive week one. Eagles win: 28-23

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