By SportsDirect Inc.
After failing to keep a seasoned veteran quarterback at bay, the Baltimore Ravens look to keep their postseason aspirations in line on Sunday when they face rookie Carson Wentz and the free-falling Philadelphia Eagles. Baltimore’s top-ranked defense was gashed by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in a 30-23 setback on Monday, dropping the Ravens one game behind first-place Pittsburgh in the AFC North.”This is at least where you want to be,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “The opportunity to control your own fate with victory is really what you hope for at this time of the season. Two teams in our division have that — us and the Steelers. We’ll both be fighting for that division championship.” Philadelphia is losing its fight to stay out of the NFC East cellar after four straight losses and eight in its last 11 games. Wentz has struggled to make hay behind an injury-riddled offensive line and a sputtering ground game, as the second overall pick of the draft was sacked four times in Sunday’s 27-22 loss to Washington and has thrown nine interceptions and averaged 45 pass attempts over the past six contests.
ABOUT THE EAGLES (5-8): Philadelphia’s offensive line remains in flux as tackle Allen Barbre didn’t practice on Thursday due to a hamstring injury and right guard Brandon Brooks is dealing with an anxiety condition that forced him to miss two of the last three games. Veteran running back Darren Sproles remained in the concussion protocol after a brutal hit during a punt return versus the Redskins, likely leaving the rushing duties to Ryan Mathews. The 29-year-old Mathews, who will have a tall order against the top-ranked Ravens’ rush defense (75.5 yards per game), returned from a two-game injury absence to record 15 carries for 60 yards against Washington.
ABOUT THE RAVENS (7-6): Joe Flacco (NFL fifth-best 3,582 yards) hasn’t been shy about throwing the ball, it’s how far down the field (average throw: 6.53 yards) that raises an eyebrow as the veteran quarterback often relies on the short passing game. Rookie Kenneth Dixon, who is averaging 94.3 scrimmage yards over his last three contests, collected his first career touchdown last week and outsnapped fellow running back Terrance West 42-14. Shareece Wright is expected to replace fellow cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle) in the starting lineup and should face off against Eagles wideout Jordan Matthews, who has received double digits in targets in five of his last six outings.
1. Baltimore’s defense is first in the NFL in takeaways (25), second in interceptions (15) and fourth in points per game (18.2).
2. Philadelphia DT Fletcher Cox registered 1.5 sacks on Sunday, marking the first time he’s gotten to the quarterback since recording four sacks in the first four weeks of the season.
3. The Ravens own a 6-2 mark this season against teams currently out of a playoff spot.
PREDICTION: Ravens 20, Eagles 16