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What do the Baltimore Ravens need to do to beat the Redskins?

Toni L. Sandys/ The Washington Post

The Ravens took their first loss of 2016 agains the Raiders in Week 4. Despite the loss, this game may have revealed more about this Ravens team than any previous game this year.

To beat the Redskins, Marc Trestman and the offense will have to build on Week 4. When the Ravens used Terrance West in a workhorse role, he produced in a big way, to the tune of 21 carries for 113 yards. While inefficient, Joe Flacco passed for just under 300 yards (298). It was clearly the Ravens best game from an offensive standpoint, despite the loss.

The Redskins have a defense that is not even close to being as talented as the Raiders. Especially if the offensive line returns to full health, it would be shocking to see Redskins pass rushers doing the damage that Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin did last weekend. With more time in the pocket, Flacco will have the opportunity to go through all of his reads, and equally as important, not have to throw off of his back foot. Flacco needs to be much more efficient passing the ball. Yes, a few drops hurt Flacco’s completion percentage, but Flacco still missed on a total of 20 passes. During the preseason, efficient quarterback play was a staple of the Ravens attack, and it is something the team needs to find yet again, fast.

The Redskins added Donte Whitner on Wednesday. While we are unlikely to see much of him on Sunday, as he has to learn the playbook, a safety of his caliber is worth worrying about. Between Whitner, Josh Norman and Breshad Breeland, the Redskins secondary could prove problematic for Flacco.

But the real key to this game is the Ravens rushing attack. Terrance West must prove that what he did last week was not a fluke. With Kenneth Dixon returning to the mix, West has a chance to solidify himself as the guy for the Ravens, or let Dixon make his way firmly into the mix for carries. The Redskins run defense is the team’s Achilles heal, and is something the Ravens will need to take advantage of. If Ronnie Stanley and Alex Lewis are able to return to the field, then West will find more holes opening up for him.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens must limit the big play. The Redskins DeSean Jackson is one of the best deep threats in the NFL. If he has a big day, it is hard to image the Ravens winning this game. Jackson will likely see a variety of Ravens corners throughout the game, but it will fall on Eric Weddle and the safeties to make sure Jackson doesn’t get behind the defense.

It’s not just Jackson to worry about. Kirk Cousins has a stable of good receivers, including Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder. Crowder has been having a good season as the Redskins slot receiver, and Garcon continues to produce despite being up there in years.

Kirk Cousins has not gotten much attention for the job he has done this year, but so far, he has proven that last season was not a fluke. Cousins was the league leader in passing yards in Weeks 1 and 2, and his passing yards total now sits at 1148.

Stopping Matt Jones and the Redskins rushing attack is likely the least of the Ravens worries. The Redskins are in the bottom of of the league for most rushing categories. The Redskins are pass-first team, and facing the Ravens staunch run defense, Jay Gruden can’t be expecting a big day from Jones.

Overall, this game boils down to two main points:

  • Offense: move the ball consistently
  • Defense: don’t let Kirk Cousins get hot

If the Ravens are able to execute these two points, the Ravens will get back in the win column. Despite returning most of their 2015 team that won the NFC East Division, the Redskins are not as talented a team as the Raiders.

Bottom Line: The Ravens will improve to 4-1 after beating the Redskins on Sunday. While it still be a close game, the Ravens will win more comfortably than they have at any other point during the season.

Prediction: Ravens over Redskins, 28-20