beltway battle

For once, Redskins don’t fear Ravens invasion


There's an oddity in the Baltimore Ravens defense. That might be enough to give the Redskins a win. Baltimore can't get anyone off the field. The Ravens defense is on the field on average for 33:26 per game.  

Injuries are part of it. Too little use of Ray Rice is certainly part of it. The Redskins know how to run. They proved that when they closed the Giants by running out the last 3:51 of the game. Running the ball a lot could keep the best part of the Redskins on the field.

Never in the history of the Ravens-Redskins series do I recall a game when the sportsbooks favored Washington, until now. The books set the Redskins as three-point favorites for Sunday's game at FedEx Field. Hog Heaven agrees. We expect a Redskins win.

The Redskins fare poorly against AFC North teams and they are down 0-2 this year as they wrap up against the Ravens and Browns. Hog Heaven considers Cleveland the more dangerous because Washington has trouble coping with four-win teams. The Redskins lost to the Rams, as they frequently do, and to the Panthers.

For the first time since the Y2K $100 Million Dollar Team, Washington has talent to cope with Baltimore. Back then, Stephen Davis gained 91 yards and a score in a tight 10-3 win that Rich Tandler called "exciting" in his book, The Redskins Chronicle. Clinton Portis and LaDel Betts ran less well in losses in 2004 and 2008. 

Portis had better seasons with Mike Shanahan than with Joe Gibbs. Now combine Alfred Morris youth and health with Shanahan's rushing concepts and you get a more competitive ground game against Baltimore.

With rule changes, fresh talent and coaching concepts borrowed from the NCAA, the offense rules football today. If Washington's defense has fallen hard, Baltimore's has fallen harder. Washington makes do with scores off turnovers to make up for weakness in the secondary.

It's football. We got injuries.

Of the secondary talent infusion Jim Haslett and Raheem Morris counted on, only Madieu Williams has played every game – a factor Hog Heaven will weigh for a keep or kick decision on Haslett at year end. The Redskins pass rush hasn't been right since Brian Orakpo's injury.

Baltimore has injury issues of their own. Ray Lewis is still out. Terrell Suggs is questionable. I learned from my fantasy football days that "questionable" means the players will play. Suggs will no more miss the game than will gimpy London Fletcher and DeAngelo Hall will for the Redskins.

Raven's cornerback Chris Johnson's status deteriorated from Probable to Questionable since Friday. CB Steve Smith, still recovering from hernia surgery, is Doubtful. DT Haloti Ngata is rounding into Pro Bowl form after struggling with a shoulder injury all season.

The Ravens defense is a clone of the Giants. They bring pressure. They welcome every chance to deliver a hard knock to Robert Griffin III whenever he rushes the ball. That's who the Ravens are. Media types welcome every chance to talk about the danger to RGIII on those hits. Hog Heaven doesn't see it.

Robert Griffin III is injured on this play in game against Atlanta Falcons
Griffin has the same measurables and better speed than typical NFL running backs. He's larger than the Titan's Chris Johnson is. Running backs take hits. The injury risks to Griffin are no more than for any other football player.

The rushing tandem of Griffin and Alfred Morris is very much how Washington defeats a defense that cannot seize control of the game clock.   

The three stats that matter suggest an exceptionally close game that is too close to call. We call the win anyway. 

Passer Rating Differential
Redskins +13.5
Ravens +7.5
Advantage Redskins

The frustrations of Ravens fans are qualitatively better than Redskins fans. Their loss to the Steelers triggered the same angst Redskins fans felt after the Panthers loss. There is no shame in losing to the Steelers, but Joe Flacco endured a rough week of doubts about his ability to win big games.

Net Turnover Differential
Redskins +11
Ravens +9
Advantage Redskins, but it's a slight one

The hard-hitting Ravens forced nine fumbles and recovered five of them. I hope the coaches drilled Alfred Morris on ball protection this week. The Redskins scored five touchdowns off turnovers, the Ravens only two. The game will turn on a defensive score.

Third-Down Conversions Allowed
Redskins 45%
Ravens 38%
Advantage Ravens, but it's an odd one

Baltimore's apparent advantage is deceptive. They've been in 851 third down situations. By comparison, Washington has been in 785. Though the Ravens allowed a lower conversion rate than the Redskins, that's still 69 first downs allowed to the 'Skins' 47.  

It could be that Washington allows more first downs before opponents get to third down. Big plays are an issue for the defense. However, time of possession is a Baltimore red flag. We award the point to Baltimore because they overcame a handicap to win nine games.

Stats can show trends, but trends are predictive only if they show up in games. Games take on lives of their own. My Magic 8 Ball, which has not been wrong in four games, says "It is certain" for a Redskins' win.  

I'll go with that.

Image: Battle of the Beltway borrowed from Washington Redskins.
Robert Griffin III injured on play against Atlanta Falcons, found on Google here.

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Anthony Brown

About Anthony Brown

Lifelong Redskins fan and blogger about football and life since 2004. Joined MVN's Hog Heaven blog in 2005 and then moved Redskins Hog Heaven to Bolguin Network. Believes that the course of a season is pre-ordained by management decisions made during the offseason. Can occasionally be found on the This Given Sunday blog and he does guest posts.