*The Ravens are set to take on the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium (1:00 p.m. ET). *
*BR.com offers a look at Baltimore's Week 12 opponent. *
Total Offense - 6 (363.8) Total Defense - 7 (292.7)
Rush Offense - 26 (95.3) Rush Defense - 11 (98.7)
Pass Offense - 4 (268.5) Pass Defense -11 (194.0)
Points Per Game - 6 (26.4) Points Per Game - 8 (19.3)
Sizing Them Up
Under head coach Andy Reid, the Eagles have annually been in the playoff hunt since he took over in 1999. And despite a disappointing 13-13 tie against the one-win Cincinnati Bengals last week, Philadelphia (5-4-1) is still holding out hope to continue the trend.
Leading the team to six postseasons and four NFC Championships in the last nine campaigns is quarterback Donovan McNabb. The five-time Pro Bowler is typically steady, but is coming off his roughest game of the season. Against the Bengals, McNabb tossed three interceptions and lost a fumble.
Still, he is an experienced veteran that has bounced back in the past. McNabb's favorite target is speedy rookie wideout DeSean Jackson, who leads the team with 42 catches for 652 yards and a touchdown.
When the Eagles do score touchdowns, however, it is typically done by playmaking running back Brian Westbrook, a multi-talented threat that can break a big play in the passing or rushing game. Westbrook led the NFL in all-purpose yards last year, racking up 2,104 yards from scrimmage. He paces Philadelphia with eight trips to the end zone.
Defensively, the Eagles have a monster pass rush headed by revered coordinator Jim Johnson. He is a mastermind of the blitz, as 14 different players have at least a half-sack. The two biggest weapons are defensive ends Trent Cole (six sacks) and Darren Howard (eight sacks).
On the back-end, Philadelphia features three Pro Bowlers in Asante Samuel, Lito Sheppard and Brian Dawkins. A fourth member - and the other starting cornerback alongside Samuel - is Sheldon Brown, who is second on the team with nine quarterback knockdowns.
According to Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Enquirer, the Eagles will look to run the football against the Ravens.
"Could this be the perfect storm - the week Andy Reid's offense does not register a rushing attempt, passing 100 percent of the time, instead of 60 or 70 percent?"
Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News writes that Donovan McNabb has bounced back after struggling in the past.
"Is there any way he can get his act together in time to help save this season for the Eagles? Well, as unlikely as it might seem right now, there is precedent to make you believe it can happen."
Sam Donnellon, who is also a Daily News reporter, wonders about Philadelphia's secondary and its lack of picks.
"The Eagles' secondary, which includes three players who have played in at least one Pro Bowl and one (Sheldon Brown) who should have by now, has nine interceptions this season. The Giants have 14, the Titans have 15, the Packers have 16."
My counterpart, Dave Spadaro, of philadelphiaeagles.com, thinks that the Eagles' offensive scheme works, but it must be properly executed.
"This is a conversation about the X's and O's of the West Coast offense the way the Eagles run it, or hope to run it every week. It is a scheme built of variety when it is working right -- plays from the same formations that have so many variables that the truth is there is just no way one play is the same as another."
Offensive - I have to give this to Westbrook. He's moved the chains for the Eagles in the past two seasons, with his running and receiving ability. The 5-foot-10, 203-pound scatback has 123 carries for 508 yards (team leader) and 32 catches for 218 yards (second). Westbrook hasn't practiced all week, as he's nursing a sore knee and ankle, but it would be a surprise if he doesn't play this weekend.
Defensive - Cole probably earns the defensive award. He is coming off a season where he totaled a career-high 12.5 sacks and earning his first Pro Bowl berth. Cole is off to another good campaign, tallying six sacks. What's more, he is drawing blockers that have freed up others to get to the quarterback.
Linebacker Stewart Bradley, a third-round draft pick in 2007, is emerging as a solid middle linebacker. He is currently second on the team with 112 tackles. That's an improvement of the 20 stops he posted his entire rookie season, when he came from Nebraska.
Ravens CB Fabian Washington vs. Eagles WR DeSean Jackson
Jackson is lightning-quick and can burn defenses once he has the ball in his hands. That's why the Eagles use him to return punts, split out as a receiver and in the backfield in a "Wildcat" formation. The second-round draft pick will likely be marked by one of the fastest Ravens, Washington. Once he stepped into the starting lineup, Washington has been solid in coverage and will need to use his blazing speed to keep up with Jackson.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh vs. Eagles head coach Andy Reid
After serving 10 years under Reid, Harbaugh may know some of his tendencies, or those of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. That could play into Harbaugh's hands in certain game situations, not to mention the strengths and weaknesses of some Eagles players. But, Reid is a tenured coach that has much more experience than the rookie Harbaugh, which could factor in, as well.
Reid on if he looks forward to facing Harbaugh and the pride he feels in helping him get the job in Baltimore:
"He worked very hard to get the job himself, as far as making himself a good football coach. His dad was a big factor in that, and here he just worked his tail off. So he's the one that deserves the praise on that. He did a great job with us. Again, I'm very proud of him. He and I aren't going to be playing each other. It's our players that are going to be out on the field going after it, and I know both sides will be ready."
McNabb on his thoughts on using his arms and his legs to beat the Ravens' defense:
"I've shown that I can do both, and I think the thing for me that's important is I use it at the right time. When you play a team like [the Ravens], who have kind of have that ball-hawking ability, you want to be able to take care of the ball and put the ball in the right position for your guys to be successful.
"Knowing that they're a team that applies pressure, they're a team that has had a lot of success, despite last week, with stopping the run and just have put their offense in great positions to be successful. We want to make sure on the offensive side we will be able to sustain drives and come out with points."
People can talk all they want about John Harbaugh's first meeting with the team with which he broke into the professional coaching ranks, and I'm sure there will be some surreal feelings seeing the green and white unis across the field, but let's not put too much weight on this.
Pre-game pleasantries are expected, but other than that, Harbaugh and the Ravens don't consider Sunday's contest any different than each one in the past.
Especially with the Steelers' win over Cincinnati on Thursday night, Baltimore needs a win to stay in the hunt for a Wild Card playoff spot, if not the AFC North crown.
That's why I am going to be watching the most important meeting on the field at M&T Bank Stadium: the Ravens' offensive line versus, well, whoever Philly wants to rush.
Jim Johnson is notorious for bringing pressure from all different angles. The Ravens saw it last week against the New York Giants, when Steve Spagnuolo (a Johnson disciple) brought the heat to Joe Flacco.
Now, that day, the Ravens did a good job of picking up the blitz, whether that was with a tight end or using a running back to chip. The regular five-man line also did a good job. New York's only sack came on Flacco's final pass attempt.
Of course, this is a different week, and the Ravens could very likely have different players in there. Jared Gaither's shoulder and Willie Anderson's ankle have made them questionable. And, Adam Terry's pesky ankle injury may have kept him off the injury report, but he tweaked it in the Giants game.
That is also why the Ravens must get their ground game revved up, because a banged-up line against a fierce pass rush is not good news if you want to throw the ball.
Ed. note: These aren't necessarily the beliefs of the Ravens organization.