Despite close proximity, Ravens, Redskins meeting is rarity
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh and his players downplayed the notion they have a rivalry with the Washington Redskins.
Although their stadiums are separated by just 33 miles, the Ravens and Redskins simply don't play enough to have any type of enmity for one another. Furthermore, Washington is playing a game in Baltimore for just the second time in the Ravens' history.
Still, the week's matchup is huge for both teams.
Harbaugh is hoping the Ravens (3-1) can bounce back from a disappointing home loss to Oakland in Week 4. The Redskins (2-2), meanwhile, have won two straight games and are looking to carry that momentum into M&T Bank Stadium.
"It's a game that we need to win in our house -- period," Harbaugh said. "It's a one-week league, as one of our players just said to our team. It's a one-week league, and the only thing we have to think about right now is this game, playing this team and what they do. Of course, it's a team we have respect for. We know what we're going to get with physicality and all of that stuff."
The Ravens have the NFL's top defense, allowing just 256 yards per game. That unit has gotten a bigger boost with linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil back in the lineup. Baltimore will try to keep constant pressure on Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is ranked sixth in the league with 1,172 passing yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions.
"I think he is progressing nicely," Washington coach Jay Gruden said about Cousins. "I think there are still some areas of improvement, without a doubt. As every quarterback will say after every game, there are going to be areas where he wants to improve situational awareness, taking a sack along the way, whatever it might be. I think there are areas he will want to do better."
While the Redskins' offense has been solid, the defense has struggled. Washington is ranked 30th in the NFL, allowing 4.9 yards per carry.
Baltimore will look to exploit that weakness. Terrance West will likely get the start after he had a breakout game against Raiders, running for a career-high 113 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown. Baltimore's depth chart at running back gets another addition this week with the return of rookie Kenneth Dixon, who has been out with a knee injury. Dixon was the Ravens' top runner over the preseason and he enters the game with high expectations surrounding him.
"I just feel like I have to get out there and do the best job I can do," Dixon said. "It's get the ball, read my one key and hit the hole as hard as I can. If that sparks us, it does. I'm just going to get out there and do my best."
Javorius "Buck" Allen, a fourth-round pick from USC in 2015, will also get some opportunities to run the ball.
Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco will also look to take some shots deep downfield. The Ravens passing game has been a work in progress and is tied with Miami for 16th in the NFL with 1,008 total yards.
"I think we're definitely finding our stride a little bit," Flacco said. "We just need to put together four quarters of football. We haven't done it yet. I think we have the ability to, obviously. I definitely think we're close, and we're getting there."
This game also reunites Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith and Washington cornerback Josh Norman, whom were teammates with the Carolina Panthers. Norman expects a physical matchup, and even admitted that Smith was among the best trash-talkers in the league.
"I grew up playing him, so you kind of already know that," Norman said. "If you want to take the competitive drive or the ego when it comes to being the best at what he does, then yes. Just me and him going back and forth at practice every day. Trust me, I'm very well doctored in that."
The Ravens lead the all-time series 3-2.