During the week 1 games for the two teams that will do battle in Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, one quarterback looked great, and one struggled until the final drive of the game. However, on offense, both teams featured a dynamic running back, and two very talented receivers. The defense on both sides of the ball held their opponents to under 17 points. Both the Baltimore Ravens and the Philadelphia Eagles won their week 1 games. So why, now, are people expecting the Ravens to dismantle the Eagles? The answer, in it's simplest form, is Michael Vick.
It is no secret that Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid is in love with the vertical threat offense, opting to throw the ball more often then not, despite having arguably the most elusive running back in the entire NFL in LeSean McCoy. When the Eagles continued to maintain that style of play, despite facing a Cleveland Browns defense that was the 2nd-best in the league the previous year defending the pass, and 3rd-worst against the run, the rumblings began from the Philadelphia faithful. When the final result of the game was a 1-point Eagles win, some of the complaining ceased, but, in a city known for it's passionate fans, not all was forgiven. Considering the Eagles have only lost once when McCoy rushes for over 100 yards, the discouraging words were not unwarranted. It remains to be seen whether the Eagles and coach Reid will transition their offense into more of a ground threat, or if they will continue to air the ball out on every opportunity.
The Ravens, on the other hand, have been a ground-and-pound team since their "inception" in 1996. From the duo of Earnest Byner and Bam Morris for the '96-'97 seasons, to the dual threat of Priest Holmes from '98-2000, through the backfield mainstay named Jamal Lewis, even up to, and including former Rutgers star Ray Rice, the Ravens have always been a physical, hard-hitting, power football team. If any justification is needed for that statement, Ray Lewis will more than likely be ready to give you the answer. So when the Ravens debuted a no-huddle offense, and allowed Joe Flacco to toss the ball around the field for 299 yards, the offense suddenly had a new punch to it. Will the Ravens continue to let Flacco use his arm and prove that, in his words, he is the "best" quarterback in the league?
PLAYER TO WATCH: DeMeco Ryans, MLB, Philadelphia Eagles
DeMeco Ryans was brought in during the off-season to become the leader of a Philadelphia defense that failed to live up to expectations during the season. Ryans, who during his first four seasons with the Houston Texans amassed a total of 519 tackles, made a direct impact against the Browns in Week 1. While it was only a rookie running back in Trent Richardson, on an offense led by a rookie quarterback in Brandon Weeden, the man in the middle had 5 tackles, but more importantly, led a defense that held Cleveland to just 210 yards. Ryans has his work cut out for him against Baltimore, especially if the Ravens continue to use the no-huddle offense.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 3 KEYS TO VICTORY:
#1. Get LeSean McCoy involved early, in both the running and passing attack.
#2. Find ways to get pressure on Joe Flacco.
#3. Simplify the game for Michael Vick with shorter, quicker passes.
BALTIMORE RAVENS 3 KEYS TO VICTORY:
#1. Take the crowd out of the game with an early score, turnover or big play.
#2. Test the secondary of the Eagles by letting Joe Flacco throw deep pass patterns.
#3. Control the pass rush of the Eagles by handing the ball to Ray Rice on a draw play on passing downs.
PREDICTION: 27-17 Ravens
The potential for both DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin to be out of the lineup on Sunday is too much of a risk to go any other way. If either one of those receivers does play, expect a closer game, but Baltimore should still get the victory.