The Philadelphia Eagles will face a formidable Baltimore Ravens team following an ugly first week victory.
The Ravens boast one of the best defenses in the NFL and have two of the best leaders in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to show for it.
For Andy Reid’s team to have any shot at a 2-0 record, these four things will have to work in their favor.
If you’re trying to assign blame for Michael Vick’s four-interception performance against the Cleveland Browns, look no further than the offensive line. This unit was absolutely atrocious against Cleveland’s mediocre pass-rushers and made their opponents look like Pro Bowl regulars. Each member of protection made multiple mistakes, and it affected the way Vick delivered the ball to his receivers.
If the Eagles hope to move the ball against a much stingier Ravens defense, they will need to do a better job keeping their quarterback clean.
Baltimore’s defensive unit recorded four sacks in their Week 1 matchup and featured Haloti Ngata, who I think is the NFL’s most versatile defensive lineman, along the line at multiple positions.
If the Eagles can figure out a way to contain him, Vick’s day will be a lot easier.
DeMeco Ryans looked great against the Browns in run support and deserves a lot of credit for limiting their offensive attack. However, he faces a much stiffer challenge this Sunday against Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice.
Rice scored two touchdowns and averaged nearly seven yards per carry in Week 1. He also caught three passes for 25 yards. Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron likes to utilize Rice’s wide skill set in a variety of ways and won’t hesitate to line him up out wide or even in the slot.
Juan Castillo hasn’t faced much of the no-huddle hurry-up offense yet, so how he leans on Ryans to call plays and make adjustments will be crucial to the Eagles’ success.
Expect Ryans to have a very busy day.
So far, Philadelphia’s cornerbacks have excelled in press coverage. And at least for one week, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha have made the Asante Samuel trade look like a good one.
But that was against the likes of Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Gordon and a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut.
This week, the cornerback duo will line up across two very different wideouts.
Torrey Smith is a big-play just waiting to happen and is fast enough even to give DRC a run for his money. On the other hand, Anquan Boldin is a punishing pass-catcher that outmuscles smaller defenders and plays with a physical nature.
These two Ravens present a much difficult kind of challenge for the Eagles’ secondary and I expect the battle between these two units to dictate the outcome of the game.
After earning himself “Punter of the Week” honors, Chas Henry proved to management and fans that keeping him over Mat McBriar might have been the right move.
Half of Henry’s six punts traveled over 60 yards, which helped him total an average of 55 in his Week 1 performance. His effort definitely helped out the defense in the battle of field position, and if he can carry over a strong outing, it could eventually prove to be a luxury that the Eagles didn’t have in 2011.
But not everything is glamorous on the special teams side of the ball.
Second year place kicker, Alex Henery, missed another field goal inside the 50 against the Browns and hasn’t looked reliable at all — even in preseason.
For a team looking to make an extended playoff run, the ability to win close games (like this one should be) could ultimately boil down to one kick.
As of right now, I have little faith in Henery’s abilities and pray that this contest is decided well before he can influence it.
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