The Baltimore Ravens might be 9-3 and leading the AFC North, but they are still underdogs according to odds-makers heading on the road to play the 6-6 Washington Redskins.
It's rare to see two teams with such different records playing and the team playing .500 ball being almost a field goal favorite. However, it's more based on how the two teams are currently playing and hence, the reason behind the point spread.
The Redskins may only be 6-6, but they have won their last three in a row. The good news for Ravens fans is that only their 17-16 Monday Night Football victory over the NFC East leading New York Giants was over a team with a winning record. Washington lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-12, although in Pittsburgh, and the Ravens are sure to spend a lot of time reviewing that game tape for answers on how to slow down the Redskins.
On the other hand, the Ravens lost for the first time in five games, at home to their AFC North division rival Steelers last weekend. Prior to that, Baltimore "escaped" with three-point wins the two previous games. Five of the Ravens nine wins have come by three-points or less. While this could be a sign of a team that perhaps is not as good as their record might suggest, it could also be a sign of a team that finds a way to win.
I'm going with the latter, although the odds-makers are obviously going with the former. The Ravens pulled an overtime win out of their you-know-what at the San Diego Chargers only because of Ray Rice's miracle catch and run on the now-famous 4th-and-29. They hung on for a 13-10 win over the Steelers in Pittsburgh against a second string QB but couldn't do the same to a third-string QB two weeks later in their 23-20 loss last weekend.
The Ravens haven't lost two games in a row since October of 2009, when they lost in weeks five and six. That's an unheard of statistic from my heads-up research abilities. Even though they may not have played well in back-to-back games, this team usually finds a way to win this year and while in past years, some, many or all of these close games would have resulte in losses, that is just not happening now.
The Ravens are a much better team that they've played as of late, which is why so many fans are frustrated with the lack of easy-breathing victories. This game will not be one of them either, but it will be a victory. It's tough to win on the road, especially when you don't play well, but the Ravens can do this as well as anyone. They are 4-2 on the road, with three of their four wins by a field goal.
This could be the same thing, but at this point, no Ravens fan would care how they won just as long as they do. And they will.
Washington will be tough to beat, and Robert Griffin III will be the reason. The Ravens will hope to contain the big plays, limit his long runs and deep passes and hope for a turnover, although he has been excellent at not throwing interceptions and his fumbles usually end up in his fellow Redskins teammates hands.
The key to the game will be the Ravens offense.Granted, the Redskins will pose significant problems to the Ravens defense, but the Ravens offense should be able to do the same to the Washington defense. The Redskins have the 31st ranked pass defense and a lot of that is attributed to problem Ravens fans know all too well
The Redskins pass rush has been abysmal, with only six teams having less QB sacks than them. Even the Ravens poor pressure has given them 27 sacks. Ravens QB Joe Flacco has had his share of troubles but when given time, can be as deadly as any in the league. The Redskins secondary is depleted and should be ripe for the picking. Expect a Flacco interception, since he will be salivating to throw the ball early and often.
However, trading a pick for a few TD passes would be a trade-off any Ravens fan will gladly accept. In addition, the Ravens must and will get Ray Rice involved in this game. Statistically, Rice has rebounded from a game with few touches and yards with a solid game both rushing and receiving. He will be a tough match-up for Washington and getting the ball in his hands will go a long way to countering the effectiveness of RG3.
I see another tough, close game, which goes down to the wire once again. Gee, what a surprise if this game also ends by the margin of a field goal. With a Ravens victory this time.