After a frustrating Overtime loss to Da Bears, the Ravens (4-6) return home for a three-game home stand at the Big Crabcake. This week they play host to another team that is still in the playoff mix due to a weak AFC, the New York Jets (5-5). Former Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan hopes to get his first win over his old team and Ed Reed returns for his second game at M & T in a different uniform.
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If the Ravens hope to have any chance of slipping into the playoffs this season the phrase “Must-Win” is clearly the theme for every game.
Can they get it done this weekend? Let’s take a look at the key match-ups for this Sunday’s game:
Ravens Outside Linebackers (Terrell Suggs/Elvis Dumervil) vs. Jets Quarterback Geno Smith
Smith is an intriguing prospect with tremendous athleticism and a huge arm. As you’d expect though he’s had his struggles in his rookie campaign. His 20 turnovers lead the league and he’s coming off a rough performance in Buffalo where he turned it over 4 times and was benched before the final whistle sounded. He’s clearly struggling and if the Ravens pass rush can get to him early he could be poised for another tough day.
Suggs’ comments about the young signal earlier this week caller were spot on, he’s dangerous but he could also implode which might mean another appearance by back-up Matt Simms. Speaking of Suggs he’s due for a big game as he hasn’t registered a sack since Week Nine against the Browns. Dumervil came up big last time in front of the home crowd with a three-sack effort against the Bengals. The Ravens need solid games from both players to force Smith into mistakes.
Ravens Running Back Ray Rice vs. Jets Defensive Front Seven
Finally, Rice broke out for a big game against Chicago finishing with 131 yards and a touchdown. Admittedly it was against the league’s worst run defense but the Ravens will take what they can get at this point. They flip the script this week as the Jets are ranked tops in the league defending the run with Coach Rex Ryan essentially daring Baltimore to put it in Rice’s hands.
This Jets team may not have a marquee pass rusher but Ryan will try to be aggressive and out scheme the Ravens blitz protections. Still Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson will be tough to account for most of the afternoon.
Ravens Wide Receiver Torrey Smith vs. Jets Cornerback Antonio Cromartie
Smith is still headed for a breakout season and is on pace to amass 1,200 receiving yards but he hasn’t been able to crack the 100 yard mark since Week Five against Miami. He does have touchdowns in back to back games and with a Jets secondary that has struggled maybe this is the week Baltimore can find big plays in the passing game.
Cromartie is a vet and should most likely draw Smith. He hasn’t had a stellar season but he’s the best New York has as First-Round selection Dee Milliner has appeared lost at times.
Ravens Defensive Tackle Haloti Ngata vs. Jets Running Backs (Chris Ivory/Bilal Powell)
New York has been able to fashion a solid run game with unheralded players such as Ivory and Powell. Ivory should get the bulk of the load as the Ravens have had trouble with larger backs this season such as Eddie Lacy and Le’Von Bell. They will no doubt look to pound it to set up play-action to let Smith make some easier reads.
Ngata was a scratch last week and hasn’t missed back to back games since 2009. He returned to practice Friday and is listed as Questionable but should be available. He’ll need to lead the Ravens front to limit the Jets attack and force them into Third and long situations.
Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco vs. Jets Safety Ed Reed
Flacco’s play hasn’t been what many people expected this season, especially when it comes to protecting the football. He has a career high 13 interceptions, with 5 in his last 3 games. The pass protection has been leaky but he’s often tried to do too much. He traditionally plays better at home and Baltimore needs him to improve his play down the stretch.
Reed was released by the Texans and was promptly scooped up by Ryan’s Jets. He didn’t do much in his debut even though he played almost the entire game. This week Reed had t-shirts made up hoping to spur the turnover starved unit to create a few this weekend. He clearly isn’t the player he once was but he remains dangerous. He could still have a trick or two left up his ballhawking sleeve.