Redskins vs. Ravens

Baltimore hates Washington. But Washington doesn't hate Syphillis City. So this supposed rivalry game really doesn't have as much punch as the Redskins other rivals, notably everyone else in the NFC East. If you really wanted to get Washington fans riled up for this one, the NFL would be wise to suit up Peter Angelos in a Ravens uniform.

But if they played more often, this would actually be a fun rivalry considering not only the proximity of the teams, but the co-mingling of the fans. Plenty of folks from Baltimore have migrated to the D.C. area, wearing those silly purple jerseys around town. And people from D.C. have moved more north, escaping the escalating housing prices in the Washington suburbs.

Potential mismatch: Ravens LT Jonathan Ogden vs. Redskins DE Ron Warner. We like Warner and how hard he's worked, but this one isn't close. Look for the Ravens to run this way often. With LG Edwin Mulitalo, this is a go-to side operating against a guy making his third career start. This means the linebackers must get off their blocks to help over here.

Don't pay attention to: What the Chiefs did last week. They have the offensive line to open holes, they have a different running back in Priest Holmes and a tight end in Tony Gonzalez who was a wonderful target underneath. The Redskins lack such parts, save for a top back in Clinton Portis. Another concern is Washington's communication problems along the line. Against a 3-4, communication is even more important. But what you should pay attention to is that Kansas City moved the ball on Baltimore, denting the Ravens' defensive reputation a little bit.

What the Redskins must do: Get a body on Ray Lewis. That's not always easy, but when he's allowed to pursue, he's incredible. But one play against the Chiefs stands out: Kansas City needed two linemen to block nose tackle Kelly Gregg, allowing Lewis to slide down the line, burst through the hole and nail Holmes for a loss. Washington can't afford such plays. One way to nullify his pursuit, of course, is by running at him.

Locker room mood: The Redskins remain upbeat and together. Under Steve Spurrier, the problems were his coaching and the scheme and too many players lacked confidence in both. Though Clinton Portis might not have meant to question Joe Gibbs, his words sounded that way. That said, it doesn't appear others have lost confidence in what they're doing. They know turnovers and untimely penalties have hurt as much as anything. And don't forget, the locker room was a mess under Marty Schottenheimer early in the season until a team meeting cleared the air. If that team could turn it around -- with Tony Banks at quarterback -- any team could, especially this one.

Weakened state: Mark Brunell's arm strength is not great, but that's not the biggest problem. His lack of anticipation in this offense is, making his arm look even more weak. Yes, it would help if he had a cannon, or even a good fastball. But he doesn't. So he must compensate by throwing before receivers break and that hasn't happened yet. And it won't happen until he's more comfortable in this offense. When Trent Green played for the Redskins, then-general manager Charley Casserly said he'd watch him in practice and wonder how he could ever complete a pass in a game. But Green did because he knew when to throw the ball. Brunell needs to get to that point before this offense improves. Unless, of course, Clinton Portis can rip off a few long runs.

What the defense must do: force a turnover. They've been poor at doing that in the first four games, but that's not a big surprise under coordinator Gregg Williams. In Buffalo, his defenses twice ranked last in the NFL at creating turnovers and in the other year they were next-to-last. This despite all the pressure. Kyle Boller is not a good quarterback right now so the Redskins must mix up what they want to do. Don't blitz him all the time, not with the defense's penchant for allowing big plays. It's just as important to mix coverages and confuse him into a mistake. Both ways can work, but they need to use both. But the Redskins' struggling offense needs some easy points and turnovers are the best way to get them.

Stopping Jamal: Washington can afford to use an extra man in the box. The Redskins' corners are playing well enough to stop these wideouts and with TE Todd Heap sidelined, Boller has few options. The only way Baltimore can move it is with a steady diet of Jamal Lewis. It's the first major test on the ground the Redskins face, but it's such a one-dimensional attack that it plays to their favor.

The Prediction: My gut says the Redskins are going to win. Then again, my gut might just be reacting to last night's spaghetti. And since I've picked them to win every game so far, I'm going the opposite way and will say Baltimore wins 13-10. That said, I feel less confident about this pick than any other one I've made so far. Maybe it's a case of reverse psychology. If it works, you can thank me on Monday.


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