By Jacob Troxell, special to Breaking Burgundy
“Crabcakes and football, that’s what Maryland does!”
But which NFL team does the pigskin thing better?
Just about 35 miles away from home, the Washington Redskins will face their DMV rival on Sunday. The Baltimore Ravens stand atop the AFC North with Pittsburgh at 3-1.
After starting the season 0-2, Washington has crawled its way back to relevance in the NFC East, 1.5 games behind the 3-0 Philadelphia Eagles.
Here are three numbers to know on the Ravens' side of the football and how it might affect the Redskins’ approach to the game.
113 rushing yards – Ravens running back Terrance West had a career day against Oakland last week.
While West’s career-high performance marked the first time a Ravens running back had run for 110-plus yards in a game since Justin Forsett's 121 yards against the Cleveland Browns Week 5 of last year, do not be fooled; it could easily happen again.
Yes, the Raiders' rush defense is a porous one, second-worst in the NFL as it's allowing 134.5 yards per game. And yes, the Ravens still rank just 18th in rushing yards per game and 23rd in yards per attempt. But the Redskins' rush defense is the third-worst in all of football (133.0 yards per game) and has allowed more than 100 rushing yards in each game this season.
West undoubtedly won the starting job for the foreseeable future with his 5.4 yards per carry last week, so how do the Redskins prevent Baltimore's running game from becoming a problem this week?
Could it be as simple as do not miss tackles?
Not only did Jay Gruden say he saw 11 missed tackles when reviewing film from the game against the Browns, but the Redskins have only three players (Ryan Kerrigan, Mason Foster and Trent Murphy) who have three or more tackles for loss while the Ravens have five such players.
West, a strong power back, stands at 5 foot 10, 225 pounds but lacks top-end speed. West’s skill set is comparable to the lead back Washington saw last week, Isaiah Crowell, who is 5 foot 11, 225 pounds and is more of a bruiser than a speedster. He gained 120 rushing yards and a score on 16 carries versus Washington.
6.0 – The Ravens' passing yards allowed per attempt, second-most in the NFL
The Ravens’ secondary is allowing the third-fewest passing yards per game, are tied for fifth in interceptions (five) and have permitted only 300 passing yards in a game once this season. Led by veteran safeties Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb, who have combined for 32 interceptions through 18 NFL seasons between the two, Baltimore does not give up very many big plays.
It will take perhaps the best performance of the season from the Redskins' passing offense to win the battle through the air Sunday, and that means everyone must get involved. The Redskins' main three wideouts (Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Jamison Crowder) have 17, 15 and 18 catches, respectively, while tight end Jordan Reed has 25.
One of the most athletic receiving threats in the league, Reed is often Kirk Cousins' go-to on passing downs. But the deep threat posed by Jackson, a possession receiver in Garcon and slot speedster in Crowder must be equally utilized to keep the well-versed Ravens off guard. If Cousins locks onto his primary read for too long -- as he did last week or in Week 2 against the Cowboys -- during the waning moments of the fourth quarter, the Ravens will also snag an effortless interception.
+1 - The Ravens' current turnover margin, ranked 19th in the NFL
The Ravens have turned the ball over seven times while the Redskins thrived off forcing turnovers during the second half of their two wins. However, Joe Flacco is 48-15 at home in his career and has thrown only 40 interceptions at in 66 career home games, and none of them have occurred this year.
Washington’s horrid third-down defense (57.4 conversion percentage, last in the NFL) has gotten bailed out by those turnovers in their two wins.
So what is going to give?
Against the Giants, it was two Eli Manning interceptions, one of which was in the red zone, that sealed the deal for the Redskins. Last week, it was three consecutive second-half drives where the Redskins forced a turnover that put them at 2-2 on the year.
Since the Redskins have not gotten both stops and turnovers this season, if they cannot get stops on third down, the pressure to force turnovers late in drives and in the game will once again be on.
The winner of the turnover battle in each of Washington’s four games has been the victor each time, and the same will probably hold true Sunday.
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