The Washington Redskins have ignited their offense with 60 points during a modest two-game winning streak, but a road game against the league’s top-ranked defense will provide a good litmus test for the reigning NFC East champions. Washington will vie for supremacy in the Battle of the Beltway on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, who limited Oakland’s third-ranked offense to just 13 first downs and 261 total yards before sustaining their first loss of the season.
Kirk Cousins has thrown for five touchdowns over the last two games, including two of his three to tight end Jordan Reed in last week’s 31-20 victory over Cleveland. Reed reeled in nine receptions versus the Browns and eclipsed the 200-catch plateau in just his 38th game, the fastest tight end in NFL history to reach that mark. While the Redskins are spreading their wings, Baltimore’s conservative passing attack has Joe Flacco ranked 30th in the NFL with an average of 6.3 yards per attempt. “We just make it so tough on ourselves,” Flacco said on the heels of attempting 52 passes in a 28-27 loss to the Raiders. “We throw the ball 50 times, and we only have 300 yards. You know, we have to move the ball down the field so methodically.”
ABOUT THE REDSKINS (2-2): After shadowing Odell Beckham Jr. (New York Giants) and Terrelle Pryor (Cleveland), high-priced cornerback Josh Norman will be tasked with covering a man he called a teammate for the first two years of NFL career: former Carolina star Steve Smith (team-leading 24 receptions for 281 yards). “Lion against lion, dog against a dog, beast against beast,” the All-Pro Norman told ESPN of his matchups in practice against the now-37-year-old Smith. Cornerback Shareece Wright has been torched for four touchdown passes in the last two games for an injury-riddled secondary. To address that end, Washington signed three-time Pro Bowler Donte Whitner on Wednesday after fellow safety David Bruton Jr. was placed on injured reserve.
ABOUT THE RAVENS (3-1): Although Terrance West rushed for a career-high 113 yards and a touchdown last week, he’ll have competition in the Baltimore backfield as rookie Kenneth Dixon is expected to make his NFL debut on Sunday. Dixon, who scored the second-most touchdowns in NCAA history, has adjusted to wearing a brace after he sprained the MCL in his left knee during a preseason game on Aug. 27. “I expect to get all the guys as many carries as we can,” coach John Harbaugh said of a young backfield that includes Buck Allen and excludes 30-year-old Justin Forsett, who was released on Tuesday. “How it shakes out – who gets what carries – is kind of unpredictable.”
1. Redskins RB Matt Jones continues to distance himself from a preseason shoulder injury, highlighted by his career-high 22 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown last week.
2. Competing in his first season as a starter, Ravens LB Zach Orr’s 33 tackles are 10 more than any other teammate.
3. The game will feature Ks Justin Tucker (Baltimore, 12-for-12 on field goals) and Dustin Hopkins (Washington, 11-for-11), who earned their respective conference’s Special Teams Player of the Month honors for September.
PREDICTION: Ravens 31, Redskins 17