The Baltimore Ravens are currently 7.5 point favorites over the Eagles heading into Week 6. Sitting at 1-3-1, the Eagles are in a better spot than any other team with just one win because of the weak NFC East. They’re just a half game back of the division leading Dallas Cowboys, but now that Dak Prescott is out for the year, the division is there for the Eagles taking.
Losing Sunday against the Ravens wouldn’t really hurt this team’s playoff chances, but snagging a W would be a huge confidence booster. It would also give the team a lot of momentum heading into back-to-back divisional matchups between the Giants and Cowboys.
The Birds will have to play a complete game on both sides of the ball. That seems like a tough task for this lackluster bunch, but it’s the only way they’ll walk out of the Linc victorious over Baltimore.
Here are three keys to an Eagles W on Sunday.
Limit the big plays on defense
Jim Schwartz’s defense has been under heavy scrutiny this week after an abysmal performance against the Steelers. They allowed rookie wideout Chase Claypool to find the end zone four times, including the game clincher in the final minutes.
Aside from the clunker on Sunday and the Week 2 outing against the Rams, this defense has played pretty well. But that may be due to the fact that in their three other matchups (Washington, Cincinnati and San Fran) this defense was facing a pedestrian offensive attack. That obviously won’t be the case this week with Lamar Jackson and Co. coming to town.
While Baltimore’s offense is known for their strong rushing attack — averaging 160 yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry — their offense is at its best when they are able to hit you over the top for chunk plays. They have accumulated 22 big plays (plays of 20 yards or more) so far this year. In the passing game, the majority of these big plays have gone to wideout Marquise Brown. He’s a legit deep threat who can take the top off any defense.
Darius Slay will likely shadow Brown for the majority of the game, but if there’s a few plays where Jalen Mills ends up getting stuck on him, you can almost guarantee Jackson will look his way for the bomb.
Tight end Mark Andrew is another big play threat, even though he’s mostly known as a red zone target. Andrews has four big plays on this year so far. He could be an absolute nightmare for Nate Gerry, who we all know has struggled immensely in coverage.
The Ravens will get theirs on the ground, but the Eagles defense has to be disciplined enough to limit the deep shots after the Ravens try to lull them to sleep.
Get off to a quick start offensively
Since Jackson’s debut last season, there’s really only been one effective formula against him: force him to play catch up. When he’s forced to just sit in the pocket and pick apart a defense with his arm, Jackson isn’t nearly as dangerous. When his offense is able to get into a rhythm, with his defense forcing turnovers or three-and-outs on the other end, the Ravens are practically unstoppable.
The Eagles offense is coming off their best outing of the year, putting up 29 points against the No. 2 overall defense in football. It won’t get any easier this week, as the Ravens have the No. 1 scoring defense, allowing just 15.2 points per game.
The Chiefs were the only team that found success offensively against Baltimore so far this year. They racked up over 500 yards of offense, controlling the clock and exploiting their rookie linebacker Patrick Queen in coverage. Travis Kelce led Kansas City in receiving with 6 catches for 87 yards.
Zach Ertz should be capable of taking advantage of the rookie as well, but he’s been a shell of himself this season. If there was any week to have a bounce back performance, it’s this one.
Getting off to a fast start would also benefit Schwartz’s defense. Getting an early lead will allow this 8-man pass rushing rotation to pin their ears back and get after Jackson.
It’s up to Doug Pederson to employ an effective game plan early. If he can do that, the Birds have a chance.
Mistake free football from Carson Wentz
The Ravens have one of the most opportunistic defenses in all of football. They have 10 takeaways so far this year, second most in the league. They also get after the passer at a high clip, recording 16 sacks so far, fifth most in the NFL.
The Eagles haven’t gone a game without turning the ball over this year, and all but one of those turnovers came from Carson Wentz. With 11 turnovers as a team in 2020, they have the second most in the league.
Wentz has played better over the past two weeks, and you could argue that none of his three interceptions were really his fault. But the turnovers just have to stop. You won’t win many football games if you’re consistently losing the turnover battle. The Ravens have allowed offenses to move the ball on them, their defense ranks 11th in terms to total yards allowed. The reason they hold teams out of the end zone is just because they cause so many turnovers.
Asking a turnover prone team to stop turning it over heading into a matchup with a defense who causes turnovers on the regular probably isn’t fair. But Wentz is going to need to play mistake free football if he wants to carry this team to a victory.