Skins-Ravens 411 presented by AAA: Better fans, Redskins or Ravens?
The Redskins are on a three-game win streak and playing their best football of the year. That said, the question remains if Washington can beat the perenial playoff squad Baltimore Ravens. Redskins Insider Tarik El-Bashir explains why the Skins will win, but Ravens Insider J. Michael points out the holes in that argument.
Can RG3 deliver against the Ravens?
Tarik El-Bashir: It's not often that a touted player – or a highly anticipated game – actually lives up to the expectations heaped on upon him/it by the frantic 24-hour news cycle. But, like most things about Robert Griffin III, he breaks the mold in this regard. He's a generational talent that may, in fact, redefine the quarterback position. He can beat you with his arm. He can do it with his legs. And he can do it simply by managing a game and not making any mistakes. But here's the part that should really concern the Ravens: Last year's Heisman Trophy winner is playing his best football right now. In the past three games, Griffin has nine touchdowns, one interception and is averaging 62 yards rushing. And, oh yeah, Baltimore's normally reliable defense is banged-up and ranked 25th.
J. Michael: Two words -- Cam Newton. Look at him now in Year 2. I'll buy that Griffin can walk on water, but not heal the sick just yet. This suspect Ravens defense faced Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy in Week 2 when the Eagles were actually relevant and did a relatively good job. Practice squad QB Dennis Dixon has been simulating Griffin. He ran the Pistol offense remarkably well at Oregon, so they'll be prepared.
How important is stopping Ray Rice?
Tarik: For all of the Redskins' warts on defense – the struggling secondary, the A.W.O.L. pass rush – Jim Haslett's unit has been dominant against the run. In fact, it ranks fourth, has surrendered 100-plus yards only four times in 12 games and has come up huge against many of the NFL's biggest names. Michael Turner? Sixty-four yards. Adrian Peterson? Seventy-nine yards. Doug Martin? Thirty-three yards. BenJarvis Green-Ellis? Thirty-eight yards. Get the picture? Perhaps Ray "Hey diddle diddle" Rice ought to try going wide instead of "up the middle" because that typically doesn't work against Washington. If the run defense does its job, that's going to put additional pressure on Joe Flacco, who notoriously struggles away from M&T Bank Stadium.
J. Michael: The best defense against Rice might be Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who didn't get him the ball in the fourth quarter despite Rice averaging 6.5 yards per carry vs. the Steelers -- the No. 1 defense -- last week. Rice averaged 4.4 yards per carry vs. the Chargers, who had the No. 8 defense, in that "Hey diddle diddle" game. His 4th-and-29 conversion on that dump pass showed no matter how good your defense, Rice can make lemonade without lemons.
What about the Redskins run game?
Tarik: Five months ago, Alfred Morris was simply hoping to make the 53-man roster. Now the 23-year-old is tied for third in rushing yards with 1,106. And, like the Redskins' more famous rookie, Morris is playing his best football when it matters most. He rushed for 113 yards at Cowboys Stadium two weeks ago and gained a career-best 124 against the defending Super Bowl champions last Sunday. So you've got to like his chances against a Ray Lewis-less Ravens' defense that ranks 23rd against the run, has yielded 100-plus yards seven times and 200-plus twice, right? I sure do. Griffin may get all of the headlines, but the second most important player on the Redskins has undoubtedly been Morris, who has carried the ball 20 or more times in six games, including each of the last three. The Redskins' record in those contests? Five wins, one loss.
J. Michael: At one point this run defense was so shamefully bad, they might as well have rolled out a red carpet and popped champagne bottles to greet RBs. Now they've held three of their last four opponents to less than 100 yards. That improvement isn't indicative in their ranking. I like Morris, but his rushing numbers in the last three weeks have occurred against the 17th- 18th- and 21st-ranked run defenses. All NFC East teams.