While the rivalry is still building due to a lack of meetings, the Washington Redskins are excited to see their neighbors in Baltimore Ravens, facing off in the regular season for the first time since 2012.
Do you remember the first meeting between the Redskins and Ravens? A late October day in 1997 where quarterbacks Vinny Testaverde and Gus Frerotte did battle, but Baltimore running back Bam Morris stole the show with 176 yards on 36 carries in a 20-17 Ravens win?
That game set that stage for what has been a fun matchup, although the teams have met just four more times since that 1997 game. Only one of the five meetings has been decided by more than one score, and the latest encounter between the two teams was the best to date.
In December 2012, Kirk Cousins came off the bench late to complete a touchdown pass to Pierre Garçon, cutting the Ravens' lead to two with 26 seconds left. Cousins then rushed it in for a two-point conversion to tie the game.
In overtime, Cousins' fellow rookie, Richard Crawford, returned a punt 64 yards to set up a game-winning field goal by Kai Forbath. A lot has happened since: Cousins has become the Redskins starting quarterback while Crawford didn't play in the NFL beyond his rookie season. Their stories illustrate why the Ravens and Redskins haven't formed a true rivalry.
Based on the way the NFL constructs its schedule, the two teams can only meet once every four years unless both reached the Super Bowl. If you Google search "Battle of the Beltway," you'll see the Orioles and the Nationals – two teams that meet each season under Major League Baseball's revised interleague schedule.
So you'll have to forgive Redskins defensive end Ricky Jean Francois for not knowing what the Battle of the Beltway is.
"Last time I heard a battle that I was involved in was the Battle of the Bay," said Jean-Francois, who played four years in the Bay Area with San Francisco. "But I don't know what Battle of the Beltway was, somebody will have to explain that to me. Fans, don't get mad at me, because I do not know that."
Well, Ricky, both cities have a beltway – Baltimore's is Interstate 695, Washington's is Interstate 495. Both have a lot of traffic on them, but they are useful highways nonetheless, and so a sporting event will decide whose is better.
"Well at least I get to be a part of my first," Jean Francois said.
Despite the lack of history, the Redskins expect for fans to make this one a lot of fun. Just 32 miles separate the stadiums of the two teams and the pair of Super Bowl wins for the Ravens since their inception in 1996 has only increased the animosity.
"Well, I expect a tough, hard-fought game," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "The thing that they've done consistently over the years, is they've been a very tough, physical football team. They have a great fan base. Obviously it's a great place to play. It can be intimidating at times, but if you match physicality with them, which we're going to have to do, you have a chance. If you let them get in your head, you have no chance. And that's what they've done for so many years with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and the consistency of that program."
It certainly is cliché to say that the Redskins are blocking out all distractions that don't relate to football, but Washington has found some momentum with wins in each of its last two games. A win over the 3-1 Ravens would paint a much different picture on this 2016 season after the team started 0-2. Plus, many that will take the field for the Redskins Sunday haven't experienced a Redskins-Ravens game.
"I don't know man," cornerback Josh Norman said. "It's my first go-round. Everything's going to be new to me and fresh. I don't know if we're going to take a plane or drive a bus; I have no idea. So we'll see how it goes; just looking forward to playing them."