This is not going to be rocket-scientist-stuff, folks. This week's prime time game on NBC's Sunday Night Football is going to be a tough one in the trenches, but will be won or lost on the shoulders of Redskins QB Jason Campbell. The rest of the players on the field will have a big role in the outcome of the game, but no more so than the Washington QB.
Why him, as opposed to the Ravens QB Joe Flacco? One could easily argue that Flacco is the rookie, while Campbell is a fourth year pro with significantly more experience. This is not to suggest that Flacco is a better QB than Campbell, although there are probably a lot of Ravens' (and maybe even Redskins') fans who would love to debate that. However, this is about the matchups as well as the supporting casts and the other options at carrying the team to victory. The Redskins will absolutely need an effective game from QB to win, as they will not have the matchups that the Ravens will have that can carry them to victory. In the games the Redskins have won, Campbell has played well and his effectiveness has opened other areas for success, such as the running game. However, on the opposite end, whenever Campbell has tanked, so have the Redskins. On the other side of the field, this has not held true with the Ravens. In their losses, he has not played well. At the same time, there have been Ravens wins in which he has not been effective, yet the Ravens have won the game, sometimes by large margins. This has been because they had a great running game, or the #2 ranked defense in the league has stepped up like they have over the years. While the Redskins have a very good running game and a good defense as well, the Ravens defense regularly wins games while the 'Skins is just good and cannot carry the team the way the Baltimore defense can and has.
So how do we go about taking care of business in our home crib against a team that has a winning record, a stat we have not been able to crack so far this season? This is a different Redskins team that went on the road and beat the Cowboys and Eagles earlier this season. In their last four games, the Redskins are 1-3 with their only win by a FG over the hapless Seattle Seahawks. They have become pretty one dimensional in that if you can shut down the running game, they will not beat you through the air. The Ravens #2 ranked run defense, combined with the #3 ranked pass defense, should be able to shut down both phases of the Washington offense. Their only concern continues to be two-fold: Beware of the big play, and watch the tight end crossing over the middle on the short slants. Washington has an excellent TE in Chris Cooley, who should be their biggest threat, as the Ravens have proven susceptible to this type of pattern. Is that enough to spark the Washington offense to put enough points on the scoreboard to pull off the upset on the road on national TV, where the Ravens have not been good at all while on the prime time stage?
The Ravens offense will try to do what they always do, and that is establish the run. The Redskins defense is no pushover themselves, ranking #6 overall (7th against both the run and pass). However, the Ravens have proved they can pass the ball and put up points, averaging over 24 points per game, good for 10th best in the entire NFL. This is not your father's Ravens offense, as they have found their QB of the future unexpectedly in the present. Flacco has been nothing short of amazing in six of the past seven games, and other than the Giants game, has not thrown an interception during that span. In fact, Flacco was just recently named the NFL Rookie-of-the-Month for November. If the Ravens cannot run, they can pass, but they also have their defense to get them the ball in enemy territory to put up some "cheap" points if necessary. As we've seen, the Ravens defense can also put points on the board quickly and from anywhere on the field to add to their scoring.
Some pundits might say that we have only beaten the weaker teams in the league and cannot run with the big boys. We have not beaten a team with a wining record at the time we played them (Miami was 2-3 when we played them), and the Redskins come in here at 7-5. Although Washington does have a winning record, I do not put them in the category of the "big boys" at this point of the season. They are in third place in their division and have not played well at all in the last month or longer. Yes, the Ravens have only beaten the weaker teams, but what are decent teams supposed to do? At the same time, we have not just beaten those teams, we have never won by less than seven points and have won our eight games by an average of almost 20 points a game! That is the definition of a "Baltimore Beatdown!"
The Redskins come into M&T Bank Stadium as an underdog by a touchdown. While the Ravens have not played well to say the least recently on national TV, you have to go back to 2005 when the Ravens last played on prime time as a favorite. That season they played both the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings on Monday and Sunday Night Football, respectively, and put a huge beatdown on both of them.
We'll just have to wait and see what happens this Sunday night, but for the first time in this neighborly rivalry, it is being played in our house. That makes a huge difference, as Baltimore has one of the NFL's best home records over a recent span of seasons. I can't wait for Sunday night!
PS- Chargers all over the Raiders tonight!