Baltimore Ravens' scouting report

NICKEL PACKAGE 1. Will the Baltimore Ravens' passing game keep rolling? Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco has set a torrid pace, throwing 11 touchdown passes with just two interceptions over the past seven games. The NFL Rookie of the Month in November, Flacco has been precise, composed and daring enough to distribute the football to previously unproven targets.

He has achieved a league-best 99.1 rating over that span and is challenging Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson for NFL Rookie of the Year honors. The first-round draft pick from Delaware has surpassed even the Ravens' high expectations in revitalizing a dormant offense. This may mark his greatest challenge yet, at least as far as the secondary he's facing. Although Flacco has thrown at least one touchdown pass of 30-plus yards in five of the past six games, the Redskins secondary counters with sound coverage ability. The Redskins are deep in talent with cornerbacks De'Angelo Hall, Carlos Rogers and Shawn Springs as well as safeties Chris Horton and LaRon Landry. They haven't allowed a quarterback to pass for more than 200 passing yards in three of the past four games with six interceptions during that run along with five touchdown passes allowed. Landry is a big hitter lurking in the middle. Yet, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning shredded the Redskins last week with a season-high 305 yards.

2. Can the Ravens contain Redskins running back Clinton Portis?

History suggests this defense can. They haven't allowed an opposing runner to eclipse the century mark in the past 31 games, an unsurpassed figure in the NFL. The Ravens rank third in rushing defense, but have yet to face off with a runner ranked in the top five rushing leaders. Portis ranks second overall, but is banged-up. If he can't go or is limited, then Ladell Betts is a capable replacement.

3. Will the Ravens' pass rush be able to harass Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell?

The Ravens have been getting to the quarterback with a decent amount of pressure and have 10 sacks over the past five games. It's pivotal that they get to Campbell because of his array of weapons to throw to, including Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El and Chris Cooley, to cover for a long period of time. Eventually, someone will get open. The Ravens have returned five interceptions for touchdowns this season, going 5-0 in those games. After not throwing an interception in the first eight games, Campbell has uncorked four in the past month.

4. Will Haloti Ngata manhandle Redskins center Casey Rabach?

The Ravens' massive defensive tackle outweighs Rabach, a former Ravens third-round draft pick, by at least 50 pounds and is just as quick. Ngata has 58 tackles and two interceptions, as many as any Redskins cornerback has recorded. Rabach is quick, strong and smart, but could be overwhelmed at the point of attack by Ngata's powerful charge.

5. Can the Ravens take care of business in the red zone?

The Ravens scored just one touchdown in three red-zone trips against the Cincinnati Bengals, but could get well against hurting Redskins defense that is expected to be without linebacker Marcus Washington with Andre Carter and London Fletcher also injured and question marks for this game.

INSIDE SLANT

KEY MATCHUP

Ravens MLB Ray Lewis vs. Redskins RB Clinton Portis

Portis is a strong, shifty runner who ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards, but is limited by neck, rib and knee injuries that have cast doubt on his status for this high-profile matchup. Portis has rushed for 1,228 rushing yards and leads the NFL in all-purpose yards and rushing first downs. Headlined by Lewis, the Ravens have the NFL's third-ranked run defense, and they're even better at home. Opponents' top running backs have averaged just 40 yards against the Ravens over the past five games at M&T Bank Stadium. And the Ravens haven't allowed a rushing touchdown at home this season. Lewis' tackling ability, range and capability to diagnose the next play, even calling out what's going to happen accurately before the snap, remains an intimidating force. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year leads the Ravens in tackles and seems to be on top of his game once again.

KEY MATCHUP

Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Redskins secondary

Flacco's strong right arm figures to test the Redskins' secondary, especially if they dare him to throw by placing eight men in the box. That might be a mistake against Flacco who has thrown 11 touchdowns and two interceptions as Baltimore has won six of its past seven games while he has produced a 99.1 quarterback rating for the best number over that span of any passer. He has been looking downfield more often and spreading the football around to other targets besides leading wide receiver Derrick Mason, including No. 2 receiver Mark Clayton. Flacco has delivered at least one touchdown pass of 30 yards or more in five of the past six games. The Redskins have a talented group of defensive backs and have held opposing quarterbacks to under 200 passing yards in three of their past four games. They have given up five touchdowns, but have intercepted six passes during that stretch. The addition of De'Angelo Hall off waivers from the Oakland Raiders has bolstered a group that features Carlos Rogers, Shawn Springs and hard-hitting safety LaRon Landry.

THREE DOWNS WITH ...

Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed

1. On the Redskins' offense: "That all of them can really break from anywhere on the field. Not as much Chris Cooley as Santana Moss and the receivers, but Cooley is a great tight end and has presented some things to us in the past. We're looking forward to playing these guys, but we're conscious that any one of them can take it to the house."

2. On if it's a rivalry: "Yeah, this is a rivalry game, but we can't get caught up in that because for them and for us this is a game that can push us into the playoffs, and we're not caught up in this rivalry-type of thing. But we know it's there."

3. On the late Sean Taylor: " When it happened, just thinking about it at the time, it's a hurtful thought. You don't want to see none of your buddies pass at an early age, especially under those circumstances.

"But, at the same time, you learn from things because that's what it was for. I'm sure Sean would want us to learn from it. You start to move on in a sense, and in your own privacy, it's between you and God and Sean."

THREE DOWNS WITH ...

Washington Redskins WR Santana Moss

1. On the Redskins' offense without Clinton Portis: "I don't think it's about Clinton being banged up. I know we have struggled. It's not even just struggled, I feel like what we have done is just put ourselves in situations where we can't be successful. When we sit back and watch film, we move the ball at times and then we do something stupid.

"We do something that's going to hurt us, and you can't do that, especially at this time of the year. What it all boils down to is us being accountable for our actions and just going out there and not making the little mistakes.

2. On quarterback Jason Campbell: "I feel like he's gotten better. I feel like every year every player in this league should learn a little more and should be able to get better. Coming from Jason's standpoint of it, being through the offenses that he has been through and happening to be the guy to lead us out there every Sunday, I think he's showing a lot of upside in his game as far as where he can take us and where he's coming from. And that's a plus when you see that kind of change in a guy. It's not really like a drastic change. I just feel like you've gotten to the comfortable zone."

3. On the game being moved to prime time: "I really don't know what makes you change like that. When you have a team like the Ravens and you have a team like us, we have a lot going for ourselves and they have a lot going for themselves, I guess that's how they kind of weighed the options and stuff.

"So, I don't really know how much it meant or whatever, but it sucks as players knowing that you're going to play at one time and then you hear it changed. I'm glad they told us two weeks in advance . Other than that, man, it's going to be a good game. We know that we all can do a lot of specialty things, offensively and defensively, on both sides of the field, and it's going to be one of those games to watch."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


Ravens Insider Top Stories