Sunday, October 25, 2020

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Ravens-Eagles: Five predictions for Sunday

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Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Ravens and Orioles beat reporter for WNST BaltimorePositive.com and is a PFWA member. His mind is consumed with useless sports knowledge, pro wrestler promos, and movie quotes, but he struggles to remember where he put his phone. Luke's favorite sports memories include being one of the thousands of kids who waited to get Cal Ripken's autograph after Orioles games in the summer of 1995, attending the Super Bowl XXXV victory parade with his father in the pouring rain, and watching the Terps advance to the Final Four at the Carrier Dome in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @BaltimoreLuke or email him at Luke@wnst.net.

The Ravens aim to improve to 5-1 for just the third time in team history, a feat that would put them in very special company.

Those other two teams eventually won the Super Bowl, the obvious goal for John Harbaugh’s outfit in 2020.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia is off to a poor 1-3-1 start, but the current state of the NFC East offers reason for hope, especially if the Eagles can send Baltimore into its bye week in losing fashion. This marks the third of four games for Philadelphia against the AFC North while the Ravens have played just two games against divisional foes to this point.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Eagles meet for the sixth time in the regular season with the series tied 2-2-1 and Baltimore holding an 0-2 record at Lincoln Financial Field. The Ravens won the most recent meeting between these teams in 2016, a 27-26 final in which Philadelphia was a 2-point conversion away from pulling off the road upset.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Lamar Jackson will rush for a season-high 90 yards. Philadelphia’s defensive line is its biggest strength, which could be problematic for a ground game that hasn’t quite found the same groove it had last season. However, the Eagles linebackers are a weak link, and this feels like the week Jackson and the Ravens calm the chatter about him running less this season. With his knee healthy and the Eagles containing the between-the-tackle runs, Jackson will beat the defense to the edge for some big yardage.

2. Miles Sanders and Travis Fulgham will each find the end zone for Philadelphia. Brandon Williams being placed on the reserve-COVID-19 list changes the conversation about a stout run defense considerably since fellow defensive lineman Derek Wolfe is also expected to miss Sunday’s game. Not only does Sanders now have a better chance to find some running room — though he’s still playing behind a decimated offensive line — but he’s caught 61 passes for 606 yards in 20 career games, which puts more pressure on the Baltimore linebackers. Harbaugh said this week that he was a fan of Fulgham coming out of the draft last year, and the unknown Old Dominion product has exploded with 209 receiving yards and two touchdowns over the last two games. He’ll have a much tougher time against cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, but Fulgham will catch another touchdown from Carson Wentz.

3. Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle will combine for 130 receiving yards and two touchdown catches. Considering the aforementioned struggles of the Philadelphia linebackers, opposing tight ends have thrived with 32 catches for 323 yards and five touchdowns against the Eagles this season. After discussing the Ravens tight ends not having the same collaborative presence in the offense so far in 2020, I’m expecting both Andrews and Boyle — who hasn’t been involved much as a receiver — to have a big day over the middle of the field against Jim Schwartz’s defense.

4. Jimmy Smith will record his first interception of the season. Since the season-ending knee injury to Tavon Young, the 32-year-old has found himself playing much more outside cornerback than his anticipated hybrid role, but this week might be different with Smith looking to be a good fit to match up against three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz. Baltimore’s tight pass coverage will prompt Wentz to try to force the ball to his veteran tight end, who has struggled of late. This should give Smith a strong chance for a pick to extend the Ravens’ run of forcing at least one turnover to 19 straight games, the longest active streak in the league and the second longest in team history.

5. The Ravens will go into their bye week with their third straight win in a 27-17 final. Given the number of injuries with which the Eagles are dealing and the discrepancy in talent between these rosters, Baltimore should be in position to secure a win with a solid, clean performance while it feels like Doug Pederson’s team needs to play a near-perfect game and hope for some mistakes from the Ravens to have a strong chance. This may not be the week for the offense to click with the Eagles defensive line capable of creating problems for the run and pass, but Philadelphia’s offense just hasn’t done enough to scare a defense that remains strong even without Williams and Wolfe in the trenches. Though there’s work to be done to get this offense better calibrated for what’s shaping up to be a challenging November schedule, the Ravens would feel really good about themselves with a 5-1 record and knowing they haven’t yet approached their ceiling.

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