The Beltway Battle will once again be fought this Sunday in Landover as the Baltimore Ravens take on the Washington Redskins for the third time since 2001.
Though Baltimore has won the last two matchups against the Redskins, circumstances are much different for both teams this time around. While the Ravens have been persevering through a rough season fraught with injuries, they suffered a big setback last week in Baltimore. Their loss to the Steelers opened the door for New England to take the number two seed in the AFC, and their last four games pit them against the Redskins, the Broncos, the Giants, and the Bengals. Barring a miraculous Patriots losing streak, a couple of playoff road games look inevitable for the Ravens.
On the flipside, the Redskins are riding high on a three-game winning streak. The Cowboys, the Eagles, and the Giants all lay smoldering in their wake, thanks mostly to the godlike ability of RG3. (Seriously, what can’t he do? Even his haters love him.)
The playoffs are not out of reach for the Skins, who are arguably the likeliest to get a wild-card out of the four 6-6 NFC teams vying for a postseason run. Baltimore is by far their toughest foe out of the four remaining in the season. Defeating them would go a long way towards securing a playoff berth.
So, with all of that in mind, what should be expected from this game?
1. The Ravens will limit the Skins’ rushing attack.
It's no secret that the Ravens haven't been stuffing anybody's running game this season. Their rush defense is 23rd in the league. They’re a prideful group, though, and they'll want to rebound after last week's heartbreaking loss. While Alfred Morris gives Ray Rice a run for his money, don't expect him to gash Baltimore for 100 yards. Containing RG3 will be more difficult, so Dean Pees will likely dial up the pressure on him. The Ravens' front three will be all over the rookie quarterback and will get at least three sacks.
2. The Ravens passing attack will have a big day.
The Redskins’ secondary is pretty thin on talent and they’ve been giving up the second most passing yards this season. Joe Flacco may not be a beast on the road, but he's showed that he can step up when necessary several times this season. With Smith, Boldin, Jones, Doss, and Pitta, Flacco will have a buffet of receivers to choose from. The Ravens probably won't score more than two touchdowns with Flacco's arm, but they will almost certainly carve up the field.
3. RG3 will turn it over.
RG3 has been pretty careful with his throws and has only turned the ball over four times this season. That ties him with Tom Brady, which is pretty impressive for a rookie. (There's a reason why everybody loves this guy.) That being said, Baltimore is good at forcing turnovers. Cary Williams and Ed Reed have four interceptions each and back-up Corey Graham has two in the past four games. With so many ball hawks on the field, it'll be hard for RG3 not to throw a pick.