The Washington Redskins have made it a season. Sure enough, at (6-6) and a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way, they have assured themselves of at least being in the playoff picture for 9 more days, and playing some kind of meaningful (at least for record purposes) football the rest of the way.
Sunday, it's a "Battle of the Beltways" between the (9-3) Baltimore Ravens and the Redskins, who have won three in a row. Coverage starts from FedEx Field at 9 AM on Sunday and goes until about 7:30 PM on ESPN - 980 AM, 94.3/92.7 FM & the Washington Redskins Radio Network.
It's not a 'must-win' game, but still a very important game for Washington, because if they can run the table and finish at (10-6) they are almost 100% assured of a playoff spot, and likely the division with a home game.
It's way too early to break down those numbers and scenarios, but let's go "Inside the Numbers" and see how the Redskins may be able to win or lose against Baltimore.
***The Redskins must do a much better job covering tight-ends than they have all year, where they have allowed 79 receptions for 831 yards on 121 targets, and 8 touchdowns, per ESPN 980 research. According to CBSSports.com, they've allowed (79-840-8) which puts them in the dubious category of league-high in receptions allowed and yards.
Here is the breakdown in a game-by-game snapshot of what the Redskins have allowed, with the two Giants games combined into the same group.
NYG (Bennett) 7 Targets 5 catches 82 yards, TD, + Pascoe (1-1-16), on Monday Night. In October, Bennett had 7 targets, 5 catches , 79 yards. Pascoe (1-0-0)
NO - Jimmy Graham 10 targets, 6 catches, 85 yards, TD + David Thomas (2-1-5).
Dennis Pitta of the Ravens has 45 catches for 442 yards, and 4 touchdowns so far this year. He was (40-405-3) last year in less playing time so his season over season numbers are on the rise.
***The Redskins have to do a good job on Ray Rice, and make him the first target. The Ravens are (13-2) when Rice rushes for 100+ yards in a game, (36-5) when he has 15 + rush attempts in a game, (21-3) with at least 1 rushing TD in a game. In 2012, the Ravens are (2-2) with Rice having 15 or less attempts.
Rice is one of only two players in NFL history (Marshall Faulk) to post multiple 1,000 yd rushing/700 yd receiving seasons. ('09 & '11). He leads the NFL since 2009 in most net yards from scrimmage at 7,166, (4,795 rushing yards - 32 TD, 2,371 passing yards, 5 TD).
Ray Rice also has 37 100-yard + games from scrimmage since 2009 which ranks first in the NFL. He has the most catches and receiving yards for a running-back since 2008.
Here's a little problem, the Ravens are (7-3) this year when Rice rushes for UNDER 100 yards, (13-2) since '08 when he is over 100. The Ravens are (4-2) this year, when Rice is held UNDER 100-yards combined. Ravens are also (4-2) in 2012 when Rice is UNDER 20 touches.
Here's a game-by-game look at Rice's combined touches in 2012 - Game # 1 thru Game # 12 , with the W standing for 'wins' and the L for 'losses'; (13 W, 22 L, 25 W, 26 W, 18 W, 17 W, 14 L, 27 W, 17 W, 25 W, 30 W, 13 L).
Just to remind everyone how good Boldin has been in his career, Andre Johnson of the Texans has played in 3 less games than Boldin (137-134) and has 18 more receptions (780-762) with more yards (10,770 - 9,994), but one less touchdown (56-55). The point is - side-by-side - Boldin is on the same street as Andre Johnson who many would consider as either the best or 2nd best receiver in the game over the last 8 plus years.
The Ravens also boast 2nd-year WR Torrey Smith, out of the University of Maryland and a Stafford, Virginia native. Smith is 5th in the NFL in yards per catch average at 17.4, (42-732-7 TD). Smith has 14 career touchdowns in 28 career games, meaning he averages 1 every other game. He hasn't scored in his last three games, so he is certainly overdue and has had some pedestrian performances against Pittsburgh, who the Ravens have faced twice in the last three weeks. He did have a (7-144) performance at San Diego two weeks ago.
***Special Teams need to be extra special for the Redskins. Baltimore's Jacoby Jones is 2nd in the NFL in kickoff return average, at 34.2 per return with two touchdowns. Kai Forbath has been terrific for the Redskins with his field goal accuracy, but kickoff distance is not his strength. Forbath did not have any touchbacks (4 KO) in the Giants win, as the Redskins allowed a 20.8 yard average per return. He did have three touchbacks out of 7 kickoffs in Dallas, and only 1 touchback out of 5 against the Eagles. To put that in a little context, in Forbath's last two home games - he only has one touchback in his last 9 kickoffs attempts. Overall on the year, since signing with the Redskins before Week 6 - Forbath has 12 touchbacks in 36 kickoffs or 33%. The good news would be the Redskins are yielding 22.7 per return. The Redskins are yielding an average of 63.41 kickoff return yards per game. They are 19th in the NFL in kickoff return yardage allowed and 11th best in average per return.
Jones also serves as the Ravens primary punt returner and has the 2nd most punt return yards (2,062) since 2008, and this year has 22 returns for 242 yards, an 11.0 average with a touchdown. In other word, he has 3 return touchdowns.
***The Redskins must still respect the defense of the Ravens despite the fact that the Baltimore defense is clearly less talented than it used to be. It doesn't hurt that Ray Lewis, and especially Lardarius Webb are OUT for the game, and Terrell Suggs hasn't been 100% healthy all year. Still, Paul Kruger can be a wrecking ball force (6.5 sacks) and Dannell Ellerbe has 4.5 sacks in five games. The good news for the Redskins is that Ellerbe has already been ruled out as he was last week, due to leg injuries. Haloti Ngata has 4 sacks on the season and former Redskins NT Ma'ake Kemoeautu is the starter at nose tackle. CB Cary Willliams has four picks, along with Ed Reed's four interceptions, but the Redskins might be able to pick on starting CB Corey Graham and nickel corner Chykie Brown.
The Ravens have allowed teams to convert on third down 38% of the time. The Redskins are up to 32.9% on the year, (47-143). The key for the Redskins, much like every team is to keep it to 3rd and manageable. The Redskins are (33-63) 52.3% on 3rd downs & 1-6 yards. It should help Washington that they are first in the NFL in yards per first-down plays at 6.53. They rank 2nd in the NFC and 3rd in the NFL in yards on first-down plays (2,265).