Saturday, December 6, 2008

Redskins-Ravens Preview

It's difficult to believe this will be Washington's first trip to Baltimore to play the Ravens. This game has been circled on many Baltimore fans' calendars since Art Modell announced he was moving his franchise to Baltimore for the 1996 season.

The rivalry between the teams only exists for the fans of Washington and Baltimore, but this will create an electric atmosphere in Baltimore for Sunday Night Football.

The 8-4 Ravens and 7-5 Redskins appear to be heading in opposite directions. The Ravens, winners of 6 of their 7 games, remain one game behind Pittsburgh in the AFC North with a big division battle between the two looming next week.

The Redskins have lost three of their last four games, though the three losses came against three top teams in the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, and Dallas Cowboys.

The Redskins have the league's sixth-ranked defense and have an extremely tough secondary. When former Pro Bowl selections DeAngelo Hall and Shawn Springs are your third and fourth cornerbacks, it says something.

The Redskins struggle to get consistent pressure on the quarterback, however, as the trade for defensive end Jason Taylor (one sack) has not brought the impact pass rusher that coach Jim Zorn hoped it would.

Joe Flacco continues to improve each week and has really become a quarterback for opposing defenses to be aware of. Over the past seven games, he has thrown 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions. If the Redskins' defensive line cannot pressure the rookie, he will make some plays with his arm.

The Redskins are tough against the run, ranked seventh overall, but the Ravens' third-ranked rushing attack averages 143.8 yards per game. Look for the Ravens to control the pace of the game, using any of the three-headed attack of Le'Ron McClain, Ray Rice, and Willis McGahee. It will be interesting to see if McGahee will find his way out of coach John Harbaugh's doghouse and back onto the field this week.

Redskins running back Clinton Portis is second in the league in rushing but is slowed by several injuries. Don't expect him to get any healthier against the Ravens' third-ranked run defense that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in two seasons.

Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell has thrown only four interceptions all season, but he seems to lack that big-game confidence to lead a team down the stretch into the playoffs. He has all of the tools to succeed, but the question marks remain until he can beat a tough defense.

He'll get his chance Sunday night against the league's second-ranked defense, but he won't be up to the challenge.

The Ravens' offense will not be able to produce as much this week against a strong defense as they have over the past two weeks, but it will be more than what Portis and the Redskins can muster against the tough Baltimore defense.

The prediction: Ravens 17-10

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