For the first time ever, both Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens reached the NFL playoffs last season. Their success in 2012 breathed life into an 18-year “Battle of the Beltways” between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. Baltimore won that round, capping off the season with a Super Bowl title. But Redskins fans would be quick to say that last season is in the past, and a whole new year is upon us. So who will win the battle of the Beltway in 2013, the Ravens or the Redskins? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question:
Riley: I’m going with the Redskins. And before you say anything, Perry, no, this has nothing to do with my lack of love for the Ravens. Sure, I’m a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, but I’m a professional sports analyst first, and all signs point to a Redskins team that is trending up and a Ravens team that’s trending down. This is clearly evident in how the starting units have played in the preseason. Washington’s best player, quarterback Robert Griffin III, hasn’t even taken the field, yet their offense has still looked better than that of the Ravens. It’s easy to imagine how good this team will look once RGIII is let loose. The young quarterback led the ‘Skins to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 as a rookie last season, and he probably would have led them to a championship had he stayed healthy. I expect him to be even better following his knee injury, and a healthy RGIII will make the Redskins better than the Ravens.
Green: I don’t care how much you try to deny it, Riley, your personal bias for the Steelers will always cloud your judgment when it comes to the Ravens. It’s only natural for you to hate the Ravens, which is why I forgive you for failing to acknowledge what is clearly the better of the two teams, and ultimately the best team in the AFC: the Ravens. This group didn’t win a Super Bowl last season because their team colors are pretty. They won because they had a top-flight quarterback in Joe Flacco and one-of-a-kind head coach in John Harbaugh who simply knows how to lead a winning team. Harbaugh and Flacco have made a winning combination since they first came to Baltimore together in 2008. They’ve won a league-high 63 games, including five straight playoff appearance since then. As long as they’re together in Baltimore, the Ravens will always be winners. I’ll take that winning formula over an injury-prone RGIII any year.
Riley: Let’s keep in mind that legends like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were also apart of that winning formula too, and they’re both gone from Baltimore now. You don’t think that’s going to have a negative effect on the team’s chances of winning? What about veteran receiver Anquan Boldin, who was a pure beast for the Ravens during the playoffs? He’s gone too, and so is Flacco’s favorite target, Dennis Pitta, who suffered a season ending injury. Without Boldin and Pitta, the Ravens’ offense will be worse, and the defense will also suffer without Reed and Lewis.
Washington, on the other hand, has all-pro linebacker Brian Orakpo returning from an injury early last season, and just welcomed a slew full of young rookie playmakers that will only help their defense improve. Add that to the magic of RGIII on offense and the ‘Skins will be one of the best teams in the NFL this season—I guarantee it.
Green:The absence of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed won’t hurt the Ravens’ defense; it will actually make them better. Both players are legendary, indeed. But they both were also well past their prime. They now have younger, faster, more effective players replacing them, which will only improve a Ravens’ defense that actually slipped to be the 16th best in the NFL last season under Ray and Ed, something hardly worth bragging about. Not to mention, the Ravens’ defense still has former NFL MVP Terrell Suggs at linebacker and NFL MVP candidate Haloti Ngata at defensive tackle; they also added premier pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil. The entire defensive unit looks fast, strong and nasty.
As for the offense, losing Pitta will definitely hurt, but Boldin not so much. Without Boldin, young receiver Torrey Smith will have an opportunity to show off his elite skills. Boldin was great in the slot, but they just picked up veteran receiver Brandon Stokely, who plays the slot position as well as anyone in the league. They also recently signed veteran tight end Dallas Clark, one of the best pass-catching tight ends in recent NFL history, to fill the void of the injured Pitta. This Ravens team still has plenty of weapons so don’t be surprised if you might see them in the Super Bowl again. I can’t say the same for the ‘Skins.