The Washington Redskins visit M&T Bank for the first time ever for a regular season game this Sunday, making them the final NFL team to visit Charm City. The Ravens lead what little of an all-time series there is between the two teams, 2-1, but all three previous meetings were in
Washington another part of Maryland. This latest clash is very critical for the playoff hopes of both teams. The Redskins, at 7-5, have lost 3 of their last 4, and now find themselves outside looking in as far as the NFC playoffs are concerned. The Ravens, meanwhile, have won 6 of 7, and are holding strong to the final Wild Card spot in the AFC, 1 game up on New England and Miami, and currently holding tiebreakers over each.
The Redskins #1 offensive weapon is running back Clinton Portis, who trails only Adrian Peterson in rushing yards this season. Portis, however, has been banged up of late, and may or may not be in the lineup Sunday night. Washington is no offensive powerhouse though, Portis or no Portis, having failed to put up 30 points in any game so far. Quarterback Jason Campbell, who was impressively interception-free for the first 8 games of 2008, has struggled lately, throwing 4 picks over the Skins’ recent 1-3 skid. Their West Coast style offense, which was productive at the start of the season, has really sputtered recently. Wide receivers Antwaan Randle El and Santana Moss are a very formidable duo, and tight end Chris Cooley one of the best pass-catching TE’s in the league – they just have not been clicking like they were early on, when the Redskins got off to a 4-1 start, with big road wins in Dallas and Philly.
A sputtering offense does not spell happy times for rookie head coach Jim Zorn and his boys as they make their way up 95 for this nationally televised game. The Ravens defense, currently ranked 2nd in the NFL, has now SCORED 2 touchdowns since they last allowed one. Really, you ask? Yes, really. In the two games since getting smacked around at the Meadowlands by the defending champs, the Ravens defense has allowed: 0 points vs. Philly (special teams let up the Eagles’ only score), then 3 in Cincy, so they have now gone 9 quarters without allowing opponents to reach the end zone.
On defense, the Skins are equally strong against the pass and run, ranking 7th in each. The Joe Flacco show, which has put up 30.6 points per game since October 19 (best in the NFL), will have their work cut out for them. We would expect to see the return of missing running back Willis McGahee this week, as the Ravens will likely need all 3 heads of their strong backfield to wear down a Washington defense that allows just 90.8 ypg on the ground. Flacco has played better on the road than at M&T Bank this season so far, but with 3 of his 4 remaining regular season games at home, now would be a great time for Joe to start to get comfy at the purple palace. Can Mark Clayton, coming off a career game against the Bengals, continue his increased production (he has TDs in 2 straight games) against a talented Washington secondary? Clayton’s emergence, if he can sustain it, gives Flacco a good weapon to spread the ball around to, as he has always had exceptional after-the-catch playmaking ability.
At this point in the season, these 2 have had a handful of common opponents. While it is obviously not a fool-proof predictor of things to come (any given Sunday, yadda yadda yadda), it is still interesting to see how these two have faired against teams that appear on both their schedules.
Cleveland: The Ravens waxed the floor with the Brownies twice this year, winning 28-10 and 37-27. Washington barely scraped by Cleveland, 14-11, at home on October 19.
Pittsburgh: B’More snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Pittsburgh in Week 4, losing 23-20 in overtime, in a game they controlled until midway through the 3rd quarter. The Steelers had no such trouble with the Redskins, whomping them 23-6, again at FedEx field, and with Byron Leftwich at QB for most of the game, no less.
Philadelphia: The Ravens demolished the Eagles 2 weeks ago at M&T Bank, 36-7, and set off a national media frenzy by persuading coach Andy Reid to pull Donovan McNabb after a dismal first half performance. The Redskins outscored Philly 14-3 in the 2nd half in Week 5, to secure a 23-17 win in Philadelphia.
New York Giants: The Ravens were steamrolled by the G-Men in Week 11, losing 30-10 at the Meadowlands. In their 2 games against NYG, the Skins have lost 16-7 (Week 1), and 23-7 (Week 13). This tells us nothing, except what we already knew: The Giants are really good.
Washington seems to be playing their worst football of the season right now, while the Ravens are playing their best. The end result: B’More knocking the Skins out of the playoff race in front of Al and John’s Sunday Night Football Audience.
Ravens 20 Redskins 9