Baltimore Ravens Week 6 Preview
The Baltimore Ravens will be back on the road to this after blowing out the Cincinnati Bengals 27-3 at home last week in their most dominant defensive performance not just of this season but in nearly two years. They will travel to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Philadelphia Eagles at 1 PM eastern standard time on CBS.
The Eagles are coming off a narrow loss to the Ravens arch division rival Pittsburgh Steelers in Week Five when they gave up a late touchdown to seal a 29-38 defeat.
Despite that and having a 1-3- 1 record, they are still half a game out of first place in the much-maligned NFC East after holding the top spot with just one win a week ago.
Here is a detailed breakdown of the matchup including potential X factors, who will likely be out with an injury for each team, and a final outcome prediction.
What’s at stake:
The Ravens will be looking to keep pace with the still undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers (4-0) in the race for the AFC North division crown with a win and hoping that their archrivals suffer their first loss of the season at the hands of the Cleveland Browns at the same time their game is being played.
If Baltimore comes out on top in the “Battle of the Birds” and Pittsburgh falls to Cleveland, the Ravens would move into first place in the AFC North standings since they would boast the same record over the Browns but hold the head to head tiebreaker since they blew them out in Week One.
An upset over the Ravens coupled with a loss by the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football would put the Eagles a half a game ahead in the NFC East division standings and improve their record to 2-3-1.
Who might not suit up:
The Ravens enter this matchup with the Eagles relatively fully healthy outside of veteran defensive tackle Derek Wolfe who is the only player whose status for Sunday is uncertain. He was listed as doubtful on the Friday injury report after not practiced all week with a neck injury and concussion.
If Wolfe can’t suit up this week, the Ravens have rookie defensive tackle Justin Madubuike who Head Coach John Harbaugh said was a force in his NFL debut against the Bengals. He could step in and make his first career start or join Jihad, Justin Ellis, and fellow rookie Broderick Washington in rotation depending on who is active on Sunday.
All of the other players listed on the injury report are listed as questionable for this game and are expected to be available to play. The best injury-related news to come out of Baltimore this week has been the positive health reports of their two cornerstones on offense.
After only practicing once last week due to a minor knee injury and stomach illness, reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson was present and fully participated in every practice this week and wasn’t even listed on the injury report.
His fellow First-Team All-Pro selection and stalwart blindside protector, Ronnie Stanley, made his triumphant return last week against the Bengals after missing the previous game with a shoulder injury.
While that same injury held him out of practice on Wednesday, he has been a full participant in practice on Thursday and Friday and is among the seven Ravens list as questionable for Sunday’s game.
The other six include defensive back/linebacker Anthony Levine (abdomen), cornerback Marcus Peters (thigh), cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee), wide receiver Chris Moore (finger/thigh), guard Tyre Phillips (shoulder), and wide receiver Miles Boykin (thigh).
Phillips missed last week’s game and was replaced in the lineup by a rotation of backup center Patrick Mekari and backup guard Ben Powers. The rookie could be back in action this week after being a limited participant on Wednesday and Thursday before being a full participant on Friday.
The Eagles aren’t nearly as fortunate on the injury front heading into this game and have already ruled out several starters including their top two receivers and the entire right side of their starting offensive line.
Philadelphia has ruled out seven players in total and most notable among them are starting wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (foot) and DeSean Jackson (hamstring), starting right guard Matt Pryor (illness), three-time Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson (ankle), cornerback Avonte Maddox (ankle), and linebacker Duke Riley (rib).
Eagles’ starting cornerback Darius Slay is their only player on the Friday injury report listed as questionable with a concussion.
Potential X factors:
WR Miles Boykin
The second-year receiver has been a popular topic of conversation this week despite his lack of production through the first five games season. Head Coach John Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman praised Boykin in their respective pressers for all the dirty work he does as a blocker both downfield and in the run game.
However, in this game, the former third-round pick out Notre Dame could be in for a big day after Roman said that there are ways that they can get him more involved as a pass-catcher and I believe that they will make a concerted effort to do just that on Sunday.
Expect to see Jackson and Boykin hook up early to get into a rhythm after not being on the same page last week. At 6-4 and 220 pounds, he could capitalize on some of the extra attention that tight end Mark Andrews will be getting from defenders in the red zone by hauling in some contested catches of his own over shorter defensive backs in the back or either corner of the end zone.
OLB Pernell McPhee
The 10-year veteran edge defender is coming off his best game since rejoining the Ravens last season. Against the Bengals last week, he played like a man possessed or as if he turned back the hands of time on his biological clock and channeled his vintage self.
McPhee was extremely disruptive getting after first overall pick Joe Burrow in Week Five rushing off the edge as well as inside and was stout against the run as well. He finished with five tackles including one for a loss, a sack, a pass deflection, and a team-leading four quarterback hits.
If he can bring his ‘A’ game again this week against an equally as leaky Eagles pass protecting unit that will be without four of their best offensive linemen from the original starting lineup prior to the season, he will have another opportunity to wreak havoc.
Recent history of the matchup:
Neither team holds the upper hand in the all-time series because it is all knotted up at 2-2-1 dating back to the first matchup between the two teams in 1997 that was played to a 10-10 tie. They didn’t play again until 2004 and only meet every four years since they reside in different conferences.
The two have traded wins and losses in the last four meetings with the Ravens winning the most recent between the two in 2016 when they came away with a slim 27-26 victory at home. Philadelphia won the meeting before that by the same margin of victory 24-23 in 2012 during the Baltimore’s Superbowl-winning season.
I believe that the Ravens will roll to their third straight victory and fifth of the season with a similar formula to the one they used to steamroll the Bengals, at least on defense.
Defensive Coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale will unleash the hounds again in this game and his pass rush will get after Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz in the same potent and relentless fashion as they did Joe Burrow last week because Philadelphia’s offensive line is banged up and just as porous as Cincinnati’s.
The Steelers were able to sack Wentz five times in Week Five and I predict the Ravens could easily eclipse that number this Sunday with Martindale’s creative blitz and pressure packages.
On offense, I think this a prime opportunity for a bounce-back game for Jackson and company after an inept final three quarters against the Bengals after putting up 17 points in the first 15 minutes.
Since Jackson was didn’t miss a single day of practice this week after missing two last week ahead of the Bengals game, I believe the passing game will be much sharper in this game against a banged up and lackluster Eagles secondary.
However, I still believe that the Ravens should stick with their big guns and establish the run and do it more effectively. While Jackson said he’s fine with running the ball less since the team is still winning without him averaging as many carries a game as he did during his MVP season, even if he was more involved in the rushing attack as a decoy, it would open the run-pass option passing game even more and benefit the running backs on the ground as well.
I predict the Ravens’ defense will be dominant for a second week in a row, the offense will get back on track and execute with more consistency, and that they will cruise to another lopsided win 38-13.