Eagles And Ravens Fly Into Sunday Showdown

By: Michael Robinson | Friday, September 14, 2012

There’s an intense Battle of the Birds on Sunday afternoon when the Philadelphia Eagles play host to the Baltimore Ravens.

Philadelphia ranges between a 1-2½ point home favorite on the Don Best NFL odds screen, a bigger variation than normal. The total is 46½ for this 1:00 p.m. (ET) CBS broadcast from Lincoln Financial Field.

These teams play in different conferences, but there is somewhat of a natural rivalry with the cities only 105 miles apart. They met in the preseason last year, but this is the first real matchup since 2008 (Baltimore winning 36-7).

Baltimore was one of the most successful teams of Week 1, winning 44-13 at home versus Cincinnati. Getting an early division win was huge, but so was seeing quarterback Joe Flacco (21-of-29 for 299 yards, two TDs and no picks) engineer the new no-huddle offense so efficiently.

The development of Flacco as an elite quarterback could get the Ravens over the Super Bowl hump, similar to Eli Manning and the Giants. Baltimore should have won the AFC title game in New England last year, and this offense will be extremely dangerous if the passing game matches Ray Rice and the running attack.

One interesting note on the Ravens’ fast offensive start: They had three 30-plus scoring games in the first four contests last year (‘over’ 4-0 overall) and just two the whole rest of the season.

Coach John Harbaugh’s team answered some questions on defense as well against Cincy. Pass rusher extraordinaire Terrell Suggs is out at least the first six games. Linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed had huge games and aren’t slowing down much despite being age 37 and 34 respectively.

Note Baltimore is 2-8 ATS in its last 10 Sunday games following an MNF tilt.

The Eagles have Super Bowl aspirations of their own, but didn’t play up to that caliber in Week 1. Their 17-16 win at Cleveland as 9-point favorites needed a Mike Vick game-winning touchdown pass with 1:18 left in the game.

Vick needed to make amends for a poor overall performance that included four interceptions and a 51 quarterback rating. His ability to produce consistent winning play at quarterback is a major question in addition to his always-present health concerns.

Fortunately, the Eagles were matched up against a rookie signal caller in Brandon Weeden, who threw four picks of his own and had an embarrassing 5.1 rating. The Eagles run defense does get credit for holding rookie running back Trent Richardson to 39 yards on 19 carries, but he was coming off a knee injury and Rice will be a much tougher challenge.

A look at the Don Best injury report shows Baltimore center Matt Birk (thigh) listed as questionable. There has  been shifting on the offensive line already with Michael Oher moved to the left tackle ‘blindside,’ made famous by the movie on his life.

Philadelphia has both of its starting receivers dinged up in DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and Jeremy Maclin (hip). However, both returned to practice on Friday after sitting out Thursday and are listed as probable.

Vick certainly needs both healthy, but mostly has to focus on his own game and play-mistake free. He can’t count on the running attack against Baltimore even with the talented LeSean McCoy.

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