Friday, December 19, 2008

Sleeping With The Enemy: Baltimore Ravens

In an attempt to keep things fresh, we here at DallasDedicated are introducing a new column style that we will use from time to time, dubbed "Sleeping with the enemy." As the title entails, we will give a pretty in depth scouting report of the opposition, in hopes to educate you, the fan, a little more than the regular game preview would allow. Since this Saturday's game against Baltimore is still a necessary victory, we figured it was a perfect time to unveil our new idea. We're geniuses, we know.

For Starters:
The Ravens have never lost against the Cowboys. This is being technical, and only counting the "new" Baltimore team. Nevertheless, they are 2-0 all time, outscoring Dallas 57-10. Right now, the Ravens are in a similar position as your home team: 9-5 and in second in their division. They are 16th in scoring offense, but 3rd in team defense. Their defense is what has helped an average offense become a solid playoff threat.

Biggest Strength:
The bruising running backs that Dallas stopped last week--the New York Giants--ran over the Ravens in week 11 for 207 yards. But...yes, there is always a but...the Giants are the only team to gain over 100 yards on the ground against them this season. Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs lead this run stop; the team allows a paltry 3.4 yards per carry by opponents.
The good news for Dallas fans is that the Ravens rush defense has seemed much more effective against speedier backs than against the bruiser-types. RBs like Ronnie Brown and Brian Westbrook particularly struggled--neither averaged over 3 yards per carry. However, more contact-oriented backs (Read: Barber, Choice) have performed better: Ahmad Bradshaw ran up 96 yards on only 9 carries and Jamal Lewis ran 12 times for 56 yards. This could give a (hopefully) healthy Barber a nice opportunity to close in on the 1,000 yard mark.

The Rest of the "D":
The Ravens pass rush is nothing special... Or should we say nothing to worry about. The sack leader is Terrell Suggs with 7.5 and the Ravens have 30 overall, which is minuscule compared to the 52.5 of Dallas. The Secondary, though, is very solid. The squad has posted 22 interceptions (compare that to the 8 of Dallas), with veteran safety Ed Reed leading the way with 5. Reed is someone Romo will want to avoid at all costs, especially given his knack for returning INTs for TDs. An interesting side note: released DB Evan Oglesby signed with the Ravens and has played in 5 games thus far, recording only 6 tackles and recovering a fumble.

The Offense:
Rookie Joe Flacco guides an average offense that hasn't helped him too much by way of the running game. Flacco hasn't been poor or strong this season, just, said as best we know how: rookie. With 2500 yards, 13 TDs and 12 INTs, he will finish his first season respectably. His favorite target is WR Derrick Mason. He has caught 68 balls and is really the only real threat at WR. Mark Clayton is the second wideout, and only has 33 catches. Watch for Tight End Todd Heap, as he has been a perennial standout. The Ravens only throw about 185 yards a game, so don't expect much explosion.

When running the football, Baltimore has a three-pronged attack. The bulk is handled by Le'Ron McClain, a fullback who has 7 touchdowns on the year. Willis McGahee and Ray Rice also will get substantial carries, but McClain has handled most of the work in the past few weeks. Do not expect any big plays from the running game; rather, a solid, pounding-away-styled attack.

Final Report:

Ravens Run Defense= 4.5/5

Ravens Pass Defense= 4/5

Ravens Rush Offense= 3.5/5

Ravens Pass Offense= 2/5

Total Team Rating (TTR): 14/20

Cowboys Rush Defense= 3.5/5

Cowboys Pass Defense= 4/5

Cowboys Rush Offense= 4/5

Cowboys Pass Offense= 4.5/5

Total Team Rating (TTR): 16/20

Prediction: Cowboys Win 27-13


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