It will be a battle of two 1-0 teams Sunday afternoon when the Baltimore Ravens visit the Philadelphia Eagles. The 1-0 record is the only thing these teams have in common, as each team took a very different route to earn a victory in week 1.
The Ravens come off a dominant effort after they lambasted the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. Joe Flacco earned AFC offensive player of the week with a meticulous effort, as he went 21-for-29 with 299 yards and two touchdowns. Ray Rice had a relatively quiet game, despite recording two rushing touchdowns, as he only had 10 carries. Tight end Dennis Pitta was the most productive of all pass catchers, while Flacco completed passes to seven different pass catchers. The Ravens defense was a force to be reckoned with in the second half, as they completely shut down the Bengals offense. Familiar cogs Ray Lewis and Ed Reed made the big plays for a Ravens defense that got stronger as the game went on.
Conversely, the Eagles barely escaped week 1 with a win, as they needed a touchdown pass from Michael Vick to tight end Clay Harbor with 1:18 in the fourth quarter to beat the hapless Cleveland Browns. Vick threw the ball 56 times for 317 yards and two touchdowns, but he did throw four interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown that gave the Browns the lead in the fourth quarter. The Eagles could have easily lost the game in the waning minutes, as Browns’ rookie linebacker L.J. Fort dropped an easy interception in the end zone the play before Harbor’s game-winning touchdown.
On the positive side for the Eagles, the defense had a big day with four interceptions of their own. Strong safety Kurt Coleman and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie each had two interceptions, while the defense only allowed 210 total yards and 6 points to the Browns offense, as the Browns’ only touchdown came after middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson returned a Vick pass 27 yards for a pick-six.
With that being said, the sledding will get much tougher on both sides of the ball for the Eagles this week. Philadelphia’s defense will face a much more potent offense as Flacco is a significant upgrade over Brandon Weeden in his first NFL start. Weeden looked lost throughout most of the game, and the Browns receiving corp is one of the worst in the league. Meanwhile, Flacco shredded a Cincinnati defense that was a top ten unit last season. The Eagles defense will have to put consistent pressure on Flacco, because he has shown he can pick apart a defense if given the time. Philadelphia only recorded two sacks last week as they will need to be more disruptive if they plan to throw off the Ravens passing game. It remains to be seen if the Eagles defense is as good as advertised, or if they simply got fat on a rookie quarterback leading a below average offense last week.
Wide receivers DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and Jeremy Maclin (hip) are both listed as questionable for the Eagles, which means LeSean McCoy will have to be leaned on more than usual.The Eagles cannot have short drives, as the Ravens potent offense will wear down the Eagles defense as they did last week against Cincinnati.
The game is also a homecoming for Flacco, as he grew up roughly nine miles outside Philadelphia in Audubon, New Jersey, so expect another big game from Flacco and the Ravens offense this weekend. Rice will assuredly rush more than 10 times as he did last week, so look for more of an offensive balance from the Ravens. Meanwhile, the Ravens’ defense will pose a much stiffer task against the Eagles than the Browns did. Some people are still drinking the kool-aid on Vick and the Eagles, but expect the hype to start to die down as the Ravens win this game 30-17.