In a game that will garner much attention, the Ravens will travel to Philadelphia for a 1:00ET kickoff with the Eagles. Of course the Ravens and Eagles always have massive expectations heading into every NFL season, but in week 1, only one team showed that they are ready to compete for a run at the Super Bowl in February. The Ravens dismantled the Bengals in front of their home crowd on MNF, en route to an easy 44-13 win. They got off to a fast start, leading 10-0 after the first quarter thanks to a 7-yard scamper by Ray Rice. The Bengals made it interesting to start the 3rd quarter, cutting the Ravens lead to 17-13 off of a successful Mike Nugent field goal, but that was as close as they would get in this contest. The Ravens fired off 27 unanswered points to make it to 44, points galore scored from every possible avenue. On the ground with Ray Rice, Joe Flacco through the air, and even Ed Reed returned an interception 34-yards for a pick-6. The Eagles, however, had to scratch and claw against the Browns just to survive. The Eagles secured the victory, 17-16, but it obviously was not an easy W. In fact, they were just 1:18 away from falling in Cleveland, 16-10. A 7-yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick to tight end Clay Harbor broke the backs of the Browns faithful in this case. At the end of the day, though, it is dangerous to make a bet based on the week before, so let’s take a closer look into this one.
Since the rebirth of Michael Vick, the Eagles have had plenty of expectations to live up to. Vince Young, who isn’t with the team anymore, went as far to dub them the “Dream Team”. The comments were made following the acquisition of coveted cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha from the Oakland Raiders. Nothing came to fruition in adding Asoumgha, as the defense actually looked worse than it was in the previous season. And of course, we all know Vince Young is currently sitting on the unemployment line. The Eagles main problems were on the defensive side of the ball, while the offense was still capable of so much more in 2011, it was the defense that doomed their season. It may seem a little unreasonable to label the defense the problem after finishing in 8th in total team defense, but there was a glaring hole in the middle of the field at the linebacker position. Entering last season this wasn’t exactly a secret, considering the Eagles were leaning heavily on rookie fourth round pick Casey Matthews to fill in at middle linebacker. The Eagles made it a sticking point in the offseason to shore up this part of their defense, going out and acquiring the former Houston Texan, Demarco Ryans. Ryans went to the pro-bowl twice as a Texan, so the Eagles are banking heavily on him to fix their biggest issue from a season ago.
The Eagles’ defense didn’t get much of a formidable test in week 1 against the Browns, but they did what they needed to do. The 28-year-old rookie out of Oklahoma State, Brandon Weeden, had quite possible the worst quarterback performance of week 1. Weeden managed just 118 yards passing on 12/35 passing with 0 TDs and 4 INTs. That dreadful performance equalled a 5.1 QB rating. Now, the question you want to ask yourself is if it was because Weeden is that bad, or the Eagles defense is for real this season. The Browns only touchdown was a D’Qwell Jackson pick-6. Not only through the air, but the Browns struggled running the ball as well. Fellow rookie, Trent Richardson, was constantly stuffed trying to find running lanes, finishing with 39 yards on 12 carries. Guess who the Eagles best defensive player was? Demarco Ryans. Ryans compiled nine tackles, three being for losses. Right off the bat it is evident the linebacker core has been given an immense boost.
On paper the Eagles offense looks simply unstoppable. There are playmakers from every possible angle. It most certainly didn’t look like that in week 1, but this is an offense that has the potential to put up over 30 points in any given week. Whenever Michael Vick takes a snap there is always a chance for a big play. Unfortunately, with that big play potential it opens the possibility for an injury. In 2011 Vick could never get into a groove because he could never find the field consistently. The Eagles still finished 4th in terms of total team offense with 399 yards per game, however. Nevertheless, if the Eagles want to a make a legitimate run, Vick will need to play a full, injury free schedule. Speaking of injuries, a couple of Vick’s favorite targets are banged up heading into week 2, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Jackson is questionable with a bad hamstring and Maclin has a hip-pointer bothering him. Maclin expects to be fine for Sunday, but Jackson is a little more of a mystery.
If neither is able to go, the Ravens defense will welcome that with open arms. Like the Eagles defense, the Ravens didn’t really need to do much to neutralize a vanilla Bengals offense. Ed Reed even went vintage Ed Reed circa 2005, returning an Andy Dalton interception for 6. Even though it looked like life is going to be fine without Terrell Suggs, I think as the season progresses they are going to miss him more and more. If the Bengals did do one thing correctly Monday night it was running the football. They ended up with 129 yards, 91 from BenJarvus Green-Ellis off of 18 carries. The top two rushers for the Bengals, Green-Ellis and Cedric Peerman, posted an impressive 5.1 and 7.3 yards average running the ball. This is where the Ravens are going to miss Terrell Suggs dearly as the season churns on.
Quarterback Joe Flacco has been trying to go from being referred to as a good quarterback to elite status his entire career. Flacco got off on the right foot to making that claim Monday night, putting together a solid performance, passing for 299 yards and 2 TDs against an above average Bengals defense. What makes this offense click on all cylinders, though, is running back Ray Rice. Rice can do it all, running hard downfield, and as a receiver out of the backfield. He didn’t disappoint on Monday, rushing for 68 yards on only 10 carries for a 6.7 yard average. I think Rice will get a stingier test in week 2 against a much improved run defense on the road in Philadelphia.
Ravens vs. Eagles Spread and Betting Odds:
Baltimore Ravens +2.5 (-110)
@ Philadelphia Eagles -2.5 (-110)
Over 46.5 (-110)
Under 46.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Ravens vs. Eagles Pick:
The Ravens catching +2.5 looks mighty juicy after stream rolling the Bengals on MNF. Even more enticing is the fact the Eagles looked like a dismal squad against the lowly Browns. Vick finished with 4 INTs and looked completely clueless at times. But to be a successful sports handicapper it is important to have a short memory. This is a new week, a new opportunity to make money. The first thing that sticks out to me is the fact that the Ravens are a good team, but very average on the road. This is the same team that lost to the Seahawks, Titans and the Jaguars on the road last season after impressive showings the week before. The Ravens ultimately finished with a 4-4 record on the road, one of those wins being against the same team they beat last week. The only road victory that sticks out is in week 9 against the Steelers, and even then, they needed a miraculous 90-yard touchdown drive with a minute left to salvage that victory.
I also don’t like the fact that the Ravens are operating on a short week, as they are 2-8 ATS following a Monday night game. The Eagles also continue to become a bigger favorite with everyone and their mother on the Ravens this week. I think the Eagles put together some fireworks in front of their home fans after struggling offensively in Cleveland.
PICK = Eagles -2.5