Ravens vs Redskins Point Counterpoint

Ravens vs Redskins Point Counterpoint
December 7, 2012, 4:30 pm
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Skins-Ravens 411 presented by AAA: RG3 vs Joe Flacco

There are plenty of good reasons to doubt if the Ravens are Super Bowl-worthy going into Sunday’s game, but they have more than enough to quell the Tebow-esque hype surrounding the Redskins, a .500 team. Ravens Insider J. Michael explains why Baltimore will win, and Redskins Insider Tarik El-Bashir shows why he is wrong.

What team has the best options? 

J. MIchael: Yes, QB Robert Griffin III, RB Alfred Morris and WR Pierre Garcon have big-play ability to expose a Ravens defense that gave up five plays of 20-plus yards to third-string, 38-year-old QB Charlie Batch of the Pittsburgh Steelers a week ago. Still, the Ravens make up for that deficit by having more play-makers – and even the most diehard Redskins fan can see that over their prosthetic pig snouts. Aside from QB Joe Flacco, RB Ray Rice, and WR Torrey Smith, WR Jacoby Jones also is a game-changer on kick and punt returns (3 TDs). WR Tandon Doss and RB Bernard Pierce are underused but more-than-capable weapons, and WR Anquan Boldin and TE Dennis Pitta are reliable targets over the middle to keep the chains moving. And on a defense even without Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis for large chunks of the season, there’s Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, Paul Kruger and Cary Williams. They’re No. 1 in red zone defense and 5th in giveaway-takeaway ratio at plus-13. The Ravens aren’t reliant on one way – or player -- to win.

Tarik El-Bashir: Prosthetic pig snouts? I must admit that made me laugh so hard I snorted. Look, there’s not much of an argument to be made here. The Ravens, top to bottom, are more talented than the Redskins. No one will argue that. But Washington will have the best athlete on the field, and he’ll be lining up at the game’s most critical position. Even Vegas senses an upset. And you know what? Vegas is in the business of being right.

What impact will last Sunday's Ravens loss to the Steelers have?

J. Michael: The Ravens don’t do losing streaks. Even though they’ve been decimated by injuries on defense, they haven’t lost consecutive games since 2009 when they went 9-7. That isn’t just a product of talent but leadership and a championship pedigree that franchises acquire only through sustained success. It doesn’t come from having rookie sensations at QB (Griffin) and RB (Morris) who have overachieved in a wacky and probably overrated NFC East division that appears to need therapy more than coaching. All three wins during the Redskins’ streak have come in the division. The Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the Steelers will prove to be the perfect panacea because this game is now a must-win for Baltimore if it wants to keep pace for the first-round playoff bye with the Denver Broncos who won Thursday night. Two weeks ago, Ravens players were in the locker room talking Super Bowl and coach John Harbaugh was proclaiming that his team was “special.” They got a heavy dose of perspective when the Steelers ended their 15-game home winning streak, and they’re going to extend that courtesy in the form of a reality check to Redskins who are just 3-3 at home.

Tarik: All streaks come to an end eventually. And while I’m not saying Baltimore is going to lose for the second straight week, if you’re a Ravens fan, you’ve got to be a little concerned about the timing of this matchup. While Flacco and Co. didn’t look sharp against the either the Chargers or the Steelers, Griffin, Garçon and the Redskins’ bend-but-don’t-break defense are, in the words of, RG3, “ballin’ out.” Momentum is a funny thing in sports. It’s hard to define. But it’s also obvious when one team has it and another doesn’t.

What about Joe Flacco? 

J. Michael: It probably makes more sense to invest in rotary phones than count on Flacco to show up for a road game. Or maybe a hypnotist would be better. But if there’s a time to go out on a limb, this is the game. The away venue should feel like home, where he’s usually All-Pro caliber, because FedEx Field is mercifully about 40 minutes south. Flacco hasn’t generated more than 17 points per game away from M&T Bank Stadium, which means the Ravens play close games. Four road games have been decided by 10 points total. The fact is, however, they are 4-2 away and already have matched last season’s road win total when they went 12-4 and advanced to the AFC title game. The home loss to the Steelers was an aberration. That was the NFL’s No. 1-ranked overall defense. The Skins are 29th, and they might drop lower after Flacco is done. He outplayed a multiple Super Bowl champion in Tom Brady of the New England Patriots in last year’s title game – on the road. He can outplay Griffin, who has yet to win anything.

Tarik: For years, FedEx Field hasn’t been kind to the Redskins, I’ll give you that. In fact, they had lost eight in a row at home before beating the Vikings earlier this season. But, as anyone who attended Monday night’s victory over the Giants can attest, the place can be loud and inhospitable when Redskins’ fans have reason to get excited. And with their team on a rare second-half run, and a neighbor they don’t like paying a visit, I’d expect it to be a tough place for the Ravens to feel comfortable -- no matter how easy the travel figures to be.