After taking on a cadre of ex-Eagles personnel last week against the Cleveland Browns, the Eagles welcome in another familiar face for the 2012 home opener when John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens come to town. The former Eagles assistant coach has had a lot of success in his first four years with Baltimore, leading the Ravens to at least one playoff victory in each of his four seasons. Harbaugh has guided the Ravens to two AFC Championship Game appearances, most recently the heartbreaking loss last year to New England - a game in which wide receiver Lee Evans dropped a potential go-ahead score on the final drive and Billy Cundiff missed on a 32-yard field goal attempt which would have sent the game to overtime.
This year, the Ravens are retooled on offense, as quarterback Joe Flacco has been given the keys to what is now an up-tempo offense built around Flacco's arm, the deep speed of Torrey Smith, and, of course, one of the best and most versatile running backs in Ray Rice. The chance to see Rice and LeSean McCoy in action alone is worth the price of admission, and then you factor in the defense.
The heart and soul of this Ravens team remains their defense, which finished third in both points and yards allowed last season. Inside linebacker Ray Lewis returns for a 17th NFL season and safety Ed Reed begins his 11th campaign after setting the record for most interception return yards last week in the Ravens' season-opening 44-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. With that demonstrative Week 1 victory in the rearview mirror, the two future Hall of Famers are hoping for one more Super Bowl run.
The Eagles, meanwhile, are coming off a performance that was a tale of two sides of the ball. The defense was superlative, holding Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden to a 5.1 quarterback rating and intercepting the rookie four times, while also holding running back Trent Richardson to a paltry 39 yards on 19 carries. The defense itself allowed a mere nine points, all of which were the result of points off turnovers by the Eagles offense. That offense though, will need to cut down from the five turnovers they committed against the Browns when they take on the opportunistic Ravens defense. Michael Vick, in particular, will be under the spotlight to bounce back from a game in which he threw four interceptions and posted a 51.0 quarterback rating, his second worst as an Eagle.
Last Time They Met
Nov. 23, 2008 - Ravens 36, Eagles 7
A monumental game in the Andy Reid era as Donovan McNabb was benched at halftime in favor of Kevin Kolb, who took over in the second half and drove the Eagles into scoring range only to see safety Ed Reed return an interception 108 yards for a touchdown. It was one of five Eagles turnovers on the day. Quintin Demps returned a kickoff 100 yards for the Eagles' only points.
|Tale Of The Tape (2012 Stats)|
|Points Scored Per Game||44.0 (2nd in NFL)||17.0 (23)|
|Total Yards Per Game||430.0 (4)||456.0 (2)|
|Rushing Yards Per Game||122.0 (11)||150.0 (6)|
|Passing Yards Per Game||308.0 (5)||306.0 (6)|
|Points Allowed Per Game||13.0 (T-3)||16.0 (T-6)|
|Total Yards Allowed Per Game||322.0 (13)||210.0 (1)|
|Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game||129.0 (24)||99.0 (17)|
|Passing Yards Allowed Per Game||193.0 (7)||111.0 (1)|
|Turnover Ratio||+2 (T-7)||-1 (T-19)|
Players To Watch
Ravens QB Joe Flacco
Going into Sunday night's game, Joe Flacco promised fans an explosive Ravens offense, and he delivered just that. Against the Bengals Flacco went 21-of-29 for 299 yards and two touchdowns. While ordinarily known as a strong running team, the Ravens displayed a downfield passing attack against the Bengals. Like Michael Vick, Flacco prefers spreading the ball around. Eight Baltimore receivers caught a pass, and five had more than three receptions. The former Delaware quarterback is poised to have a big year and bring his team to the Super Bowl after just missing the mark last season.
Ravens S Ed Reed
The 'other' superstar on the Ravens defense, Ed Reed is the quintessential ballhawk. Though he turned 34 Tuesday, Reed showed why he is an eight-time All-Pro last Monday night against the Bengals. With Cincinnati driving and the game very much in reach, Reed intercepted a tipped pass from Andy Dalton and returned it for a game-clinching touchdown. The safety shows few signs of slowing down, and is a threat to make a big play at all times. The Eagles offense will have to account for him every time he's on the field.
Eagles RB LeSean McCoy
For as good as they looked Sunday night, the Ravens allowed 122 yards to Bengals running backs, including 91 and a touchdown to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. This is an advantage the Eagles and LeSean McCoy can exploit. Arguably the top runner in the game, McCoy rushed for 1,309 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. And against the Browns, McCoy followed it up with another stellar performance, rushing for 110 yards on 20 carries. With his mix of speed and power McCoy has the ability to run up the middle or sprint off the edge. Expect to see a healthy dose of McCoy in both the run and passing games against Baltimore.
Eagles DT Cullen Jenkins
Jenkins played nearly 70 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps Sunday, and for good reason. Jenkins has the ability to rush the passer both from the defensive tackle position as well the outside. Flacco was sacked three times against the Bengals, and Jenkins finished the game against the Browns with two tackles for loss. But that isn't to say he can't handle the run. Pro Football Focus rated Jenkins one of the most stout tackles against the run last season. Jenkins creates a mismatch wherever he lines up, but he may be most effective against 36-year-old center Matt Birk. The Eagles outside pass rush should disrupt Flacco and the Ravens offense, but a big day from Jenkins can help the defense put on another impressive performance.
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