The game between the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins presents many intriguing matchups. These matchups beginning with a key battle in the trenches.
There is also a crucial coaching clash and a pivotal head-to-head showcasing two talented running backs.
Here are the best matchups from the Ravens-Redskins.
Ravens Defensive Line vs. Redskins Offensive Line
The Ravens will hope their still powerful defensive front can shut down Washington's top-ranked ground game. The key will be the battle inside involving the interior of the Redskins' front five and Baltimore's Haloti Ngata.
The mammoth defensive tackle is the linchpin of Baltimore's defense. Ngata sets the front and the Ravens move him all along the line to challenge where teams like to run.
The Redskins run most of their zone-stretch plays to the left. Penetration is the key to stopping stretch plays, so left guard Kory Lichtensteiger will have to keep Ngata at bay.
Lichtensteiger is probably the Redskins best run-blocker. He will receive solid support from smart and scrappy center, Will Montgomery.
Creating holes for the running game is the one area where the Redskins line excels. If they can control Ngata, their running game could dominate the Ravens.
On the outside, both Redskins tackles face challenging matchups. Left tackle Trent Williams will be occupied with the brilliant Terrell Suggs.
He has been injured for most of the campaign, but Suggs remains one of the toughest pass-rushers in the NFL. The hybrid rush end spends most of his time on the line, so Williams will be one-on-one.
On the other side, right tackle Tyler Polumbus could struggle against Paul Kruger. Polumbus is often viewed as a weak link, but he has filled in admirably for the often-injured Jammal Brown.
He will need to be at this best to subdue Kruger. The 26-year-old has emerged as the Ravens' best pass-rusher this season.
At 6'4" and 270 pounds, Kruger is a powerful, hustling pass-rusher who will give Polumbus all he can handle.
The Redskins would be wise to help their tackles with support from running backs and tight ends throughout the game.
DeAngelo Hall vs. Torrey Smith
Like him or not, DeAngelo Hall is the Redskins best cover man. Former Raven Josh Wilson has been shaky all season and Hall has become the more dependable corner.
The motor mouth veteran will need to focus his efforts on shadowing young speedster Torrey Smith. He is the one true big-play threat on Baltimore's offense.
Smith's vertical speed makes him the prime target for strong-armed quarterback Joe Flacco. Their ability to stretch defenses deep opens up the underneath routes for Anquan Boldin and Ray Rice.
Smith is averaging 17.4 yards per reception and already has seven touchdowns. Washington's pass defense faces a tough task attempting to keep the second-year pro quiet.
That's because the Redskins have made a habit of surrendering big plays through the air this season. They are ranked 31st against the pass.
The problem is a lack of legitimate speed, particularly at safety. That could leave Hall isolated against Smith and that could lead to trouble for Washington.
Coaching Matchup: Dean Pees vs. Kyle Shanahan
Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees must outwit the clever design and deception of Kyle Shanahan's Redskins offense.
Shanahan has crafted a scheme perfectly-suited to the athletic gifts of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. He has mixed the zone-running and play-action passing he used with the Houston Texans, with elements of the option offense.
The result has been a run-first scheme, that attacks the edges of defenses on the ground. When taking to the air, Shanahan has used Griffin's play-faking expertise to manufacture numerous big gains.
This combination embarrassed the New York Giants in Week 13. It has made more than one defense look foolish and is the reason for the Redskins success.
Pees has the veteran talent to stifle this scheme. However, he has struggled to fashion that talent into a stout defense, thanks to several key injuries.
Pees has missed Suggs and Ray Lewis, as well as cornerback Lardarius Webb. The result is a Ravens defense that ranks 25th overall, 23rd against both the run and the pass.
Yet Baltimore are ninth in points allowed and have a knack for making big plays in the red zone. If Pees can slow down the Redskins option game, his defense could force Griffin into mistakes.
Best Head-to-Head: Ray Rice vs. Alfred Morris
Two dynamic running backs will be on display, in the form of veteran Ray Rice and rookie Alfred Morris.
Rice is Baltimore's best offensive player and when they choose to put the game in his hands, they usually win. Morris has gone from sixth-round draft pick to 1,000-yard rusher in the Shanahan zone system.
He is a true workhorse, who runs with intelligence and power. If Morris gets going, Griffin becomes next to impossible to stop.
The Ravens are not the force they used to be against the run. By contrast, the Redskins own the fourth-ranked rush defense and allow only 91.5 yards per game.
Whoever wins this duel will likely determine the outcome of the game.
Prediction: Ravens 21-24 Redskins
The Redskins really need to win at least three of their last four games to have a playoff shot. They have all the momentum after besting the Giants.
It will be close, but the Redskins should make enough big plays to sneak past the ageing and wounded Ravens.
Where To Watch Online: Redskins vs. Ravens755939