If you listen to some Washington Redskins fans this week, you'd think that the team shouldn't bother making the trip up I-95 to M&T Bank Stadium this week. They have no chance, according to some, to even stay in the game against the Baltimore Ravens.
At first glance, the negative feelings have a great deal of validity. Baltimore has won six of its last seven games. They have put up 30 points or more in all but two of those wins and in those games they scored 27 and 29.
The Redskins' problems with scoring points are well documented. They have yet to post 30 points in a game this year and the Ravens are not a team you want to play when you need to get your offense cranking. They are second in the NFL in total defense and their D is one of those nasty units that smacks you around and takes your lunch money.
A closer look, however, reveals that the Ravens may not be such a formidable force. They are 8-4, just one game better than the Redskins. Their six-of-seven hot streak has been built mostly against the dregs of the NFL. Miami and Philadelphia are the strongest of their victims. The others are Oakland, Cleveland, Houston, and Cincinnati.
That doesn't mean that the Ravens aren't any good, it just makes their record difficult to evaluate. For the most part, the Ravens are a team that has won the games it should win and they have lost the games they should lose (their four losses are to a pair of 11-1 teams, the Titans and Giants, the 9-3 Steelers and the 8-4 Colts).
This one against the Skins goes into the category of a game the Ravens "should" win. The Skins have lost three out of four and, although the losses were to quality teams they haven't been particularly competitive in those losses. The Ravens are at home and they are a five-point favorite.
The Redskins' best shot is to bunch up against the Ravens' rushing attack and dare rookie Joe Flacco to beat them. That's been tried this year but Flacco has been up to the challenge for the most part. The Ravens, however, have not faced a defensive backfield the caliber of that of the Redskins, who should be at full strength with Shawn Springs likely to play.
Still, you have to wonder where the Washington points will come from. Maybe this is the week that they take all of the heat and pressure and turn the lump of coal that their offense has been into a diamond.
Maybe, but probably not.
Ravens 16, Redskins 10
Rich Tandler blogs about the Skins at RealRedskins.com and he is the author of the upcoming book The Redskins Chronicle. You can reach Rich by email at firstname.lastname@example.org