It only just seems like the Ravens have not had any home games since, like, Labor Day! Well, Sunday begins a bit of a make-up for all the road games of late, as the Jets come to Charm City for the first of three games at M&T Bank Stadium.
As everyone has written and as everyone knows, the Ravens need to win all three of these games, since New England and Cincinnati will be seen on the other side. But the good news is that these contests are all very, very winnable.
Did you see this sentence? “As the patience among Ravens fans wears thin, two things have remained consistent – the team’s overall inconsistency and the erratic play of Joe Flacco.”
Nope – you did not see it, but the following was in the New York media: “As the patience among New York Jets fans wears thin, two things have remained consistent – the team’s overall inconsistency and the erratic play of Geno Smith.”
There are both similar and dissimilar elements of the two teams, but all in all, it points toward another probable close game. The AP PRO32 Ranking lists the Jets as #18 and the Ravens at #19. The Jets dropped to this ranking from the 12th spot, whereas the Ravens fell two places from last week.
So, what do the Ravens need for success against the Jets this Sunday? …
Keep the Running Game Running
So who was that guy in the Ravens uniform this past Sunday running the ball? Yes, it was Ray Rice with 131 yards in a breakout performance. Skeptics will say that it all related to Rice exposing the lousy Bears rushing defense; and yes, it is a statistically supportable position. And if that is not enough bad news for you, consider this: the Jets are the #1 rushing defense in the NFL. Another good week for the offensive line and Rice and Bernard Pierce would be tremendously encouraging for Ravens fans.
Keep the Jets’ Rookie Quarterback on the Run
Ravens followers have been concerned this year with Flacco’s 13 interceptions that rank him fifth in the NFL, but the Jets’ rookie quarterback Geno Smith is second in the league with 16 picks. (Quick! Who is #1 in interceptions thrown? … Yep – a fellow named Eli Manning, with 17.) Smith has thrown but one touchdown over the past five games, while giving up eight interceptions. Combine fumbles with the picks, and between the two QBs they have 35 turnovers in 20 games.
Flacco and Smith could commiserate a bit in conversation at the 50 yard line during warm-ups about another mutual experience. Smith: “So Joe, I hear you’ve been seeing the stadium lights quite a bit this year from the perspective of being flat on your back on the field!” Flacco: “Ain’t that the truth! Been sacked 33 times so far!” Smith: “Hah! Got you beat – 34 for this guy!”
All of this is to say that the Ravens defense has the opportunity to confuse and take advantage of a youngster who may be into this NFL thing just a bit over his head. In the wings for the Jets is the younger son of former Giants star Phil Simms. Matt Sims had a 33 for 44 pre-season game and threw his first career touchdown pass to tight end Jeff Cumberland in last week’s 37-14 loss to the Bills (after Smith was 8 of 23 for 103 yards). But head coach Rex Ryan is sticking with Smith for now.
Smith said, “I don’t think statistics tell every single thing, every part of the story. I obviously don’t want my stats to look like that and I don’t want to play like that. But I’ve gotten better. I’ve become a smarter player.”
The former West Virginia star has the tools for sure, as he (along with Seattle’s Russell Wilson) leads the league with the most “game-winning drives” with four. “He’s definitely a quarterback with the potential to either win the game for them or give it away,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said.
“Rookies do have their ups and downs,” said Ravens strong safety James Ihedigbo. “He can throw the ball on the run. He’s athletic. He can do some things with his feet, which defensively has hurt us in the past with quarterbacks getting out of the pocket.”
Revive the Passing Game against a Weak Air Defense
I will not go any deeper into the most-reported aspect of the Ravens this past week – the play of Joe Flacco. There is no way to say he has played at the same level as last year, but without doubt, he has not been helped by his offensive line and the greasy hands of his receiving corps.
But, this is a new week. And though the Jets are the #8 overall defense in the NFL, their pass defense ranks 23rd. This could be just what the doctor ordered.
Dr. Harbaugh – the only doc who counts – has said,
“I’ll tell you this about Joe Flacco: Joe is a great quarterback. Joe is our quarterback, he’s my quarterback. Does anybody have any doubt about that at this point? I know we don’t. Joe has played great football, and Joe is going to continue to play great football even better. Look at the plays he’s made, scrambling around and making throws and things like that.”
Make Clutch Plays and Get Over the Hump
Many times this season, it has seemed that the Ravens are only a play or two away from a game having an entirely different outcome. This past Sunday a great catch by Dallas Clark kept them alive, but then they could not score on 1st-and-goal from the five yard line.
The Ravens need to make more of those big plays in big moments to get them over the hump.
The last four Ravens losses have been by a combined 14 points; and six games have been decided by three or fewer points. “In the end, it comes down to winning a tight game and doing the things you have to do to win a tight game … we haven’t done a good enough job in close games,” noted Harbaugh appropriately. And then, referring to the opposition, “They are going to make enough plays on their own without creating opportunities for them or plays for them. And that’s where we have to be better.”
Get Rid of the Multiple Personality Disorder
As our staff writer Jeremiah Sater pointed out earlier the week, the Ravens need to play a complete game … matching up the math where two halves equal a whole.
But they won’t be the only team in M&T Stadium with problems being up and down. The Jets are the first squad since 1970 to go through the first 10 games of the season with alternating wins and losses. Consider the past four games: they dropped the Pats 30-27 in OT, got blown away by the Bengals 49-9, BEAT THE SAINTS 26-20, and then got thumped last week by the Bills 37-14. That is a bit schizophrenic!
Sustain the Tradition of Winning at Home
Here are some statistics that Ravens fans surely like reading: Baltimore is 36-8 at home since Harbaugh began in 2008; they have won 27 of the last 31 home games; and they are 9-1 at home in the Harbaugh era.
Flacco said this week,
“What do we have left to lose? We’ve dealt with as much crap as you can deal with. We’ve had to stand up here and talk about not playing well and staring it straight in the eye and dealing with it. We’ve just got to go let it loose.”
Topics: Baltimore Ravens