The Ravens will play their first road game of the season Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that ran at will against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1 and intercepted four passes but needed a late touchdown drive to win, 17-16. That’s because Michael Vick threw four picks himself and it could have easily been more.
And then there’s the threat of a letdown -- something that became a dirty word around The Castle a season ago. After their dominant, emotional win against the Pittsburgh Steelers to open the 2011 season, the Ravens fell flat on their faces in a road loss to the Tennessee Titans. The same thing happened the previous season when they lost to the Bengals after a tight, hard-hitting Week 1 win against Rex Ryan and the New York Jets.
Am I predicting another Week 2 letdown on Sunday afternoon? I’ll address the possibility in this week’s edition of “Four Predictions Sure to Go Wrong.” But you’re going to have to read on to find out the answer.
1. McCOY WILL GAIN MORE TOTAL YARDS THAN RICE
This has nothing to do with Ray Rice’s light workload in the 44-13 win over the Bengals. Honestly, I thought the concern after Rice got just 13 touches -- 10 carries and three catches -- was a little premature. I had no problem with the Ravens taking Rice out with a big lead instead of letting him grind it out in garbage time -- and I even have Rice on my fantasy team. Anyway, I think Rice will get 20 or so touches and top 125 total yards, but I see McCoy having an even bigger game. The Eagles love running him to the outside, and I didn’t like what I saw from Paul Kruger and Albert McClellan when they tried to set the edge against the Bengals.
2. THERE WILL BE AT LEAST 10 SACKS IN THIS GAME
The Ravens had four sacks last weekend and the Eagles had two, but there will be more Sunday. The Ravens protected Joe Flacco well against the Bengals, allowing three sacks, but the Eagles tied for the NFL lead with 50 sacks in 2011 and swarmed Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden in Week 1. Speed rushers Trent Cole and Jason Babin will give Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele problems and defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Fletcher Cox will generate pressure inside. Meanwhile, Vick was sacked twice in Week 1, but the wild scrambler took a beating. Break out the bleach, guys; there are going to be a lot of grass stains after this one.
3. THE RAVENS WILL SCORE ON ANOTHER PICK-SIX
Ravens free safety Ed Reed sucked the life out of the Bengals by intercepting quarterback Andy Dalton in the third quarter and returning it for a touchdown. A day earlier, a Vick pick-six threatened to do the same to the Eagles, but Vick and the Eagles eventually regrouped. Early in the fourth quarter, with the Eagles clinging to a one-point lead, Vick threw an ill-advised pass that Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson stepped in front of and returned 27 yards for a touchdown. I can envision Vick slipping up again against the Ravens. Maybe it will be Reed or cornerback Lardarius Webb. But one of the Ravens is going to pick off Vick and take it to the house.
4. THE RAVENS AVOID A LETDOWN -- JUST BARELY
Not long after beating the Bengals, Ravens coach John Harbaugh brought up his team’s Week 2 struggles in recent seasons. Maybe he did it because he knew we would ask him about it eventually, or maybe Harbaugh wanted to send a message to his players right away. Either way, I didn’t really notice an increased focus from the players this week; it was business as usual, and that’s usually a good thing. So why do I think the Ravens will win? For one, I’m sure the players want to avoid answering questions about another letdown, even if no one said as much. But more importantly, they’re simply the better team. My prediction: Ravens 23, Eagles 20.