Saturday, November 23, 2013

Four Point Stance: Jets at Ravens


Rex Ryan is still looking for his first win against the Baltimore Ravens, where he spent 10 years as a defensive assistant, coordinator and assistant head coach before taking the New York Jets' lead gig in 2009.

The Ravens (4-6) might be at their most vulnerable this time around, having dropped four of their last five coming off a Super Bowl victory that was followed by a house-cleaning. The Jets, however, haven't exactly been the steadiest of squads, either.

Gang Green dropped a major-league stinker last week against the Buffalo Bills, setting a league-record of alternating wins and losses through their first 10 games.

Rookie quarterback Geno Smith has been really good in most of the wins and really bad in all of the losses, though he's been on a bit of a cold streak since the Jets ousted the division rival New England Patriots last month. New York can ill-afford to have Smith continue his descent if it wants to make a serious run at a playoff berth.

At the moment, the Jets hold the final Wildcard spot and are in control of their destiny. The Ravens, meanwhile, are on the bubble and are highly motivated.

When the Jets have the ball:
The Jets are averaging the second-fewest points per game in the NFL, with a leaky offensive line, more-than-shaky quarterbacking and an in-flux receiving corps acting as the main culprits. This week, things won't get any easier against a stout Baltimore unit that leads the league in red zone defense. Thank goodness for Nick Folk, right? The Jets will try to get tight end Kellen Winslow back involved in the offense while honing in the underachieving receiver Stephen Hill, but the tailbacks will be key in this one, both running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. Also, New York looks for Smith to get back to his running ways, as his chain-moving scrambles early in the season were a big part of the Jets' success prior to his recent struggles.

When the Ravens have the ball:
Coming off a championship title and a big contract signing, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco hasn't been much better than Smith through 11 weeks. The Jets' top-ranked run defense should be able to stifle a struggling Ray Rice, and the defensive front won't have a problem getting through Baltimore's mediocre pass protection unit. However, the Jets have been susceptible to the deep ball, which is right up Ravens receiver Torrey Smith's alley. Former Ravens safety and future Hall of Famer Ed Reed was brought in to bolster the back end of New York's defense, but after just one game, it's yet to be determined if his impact has and will be felt. The strong-armed Flacco will provide a good gauge for that.

Dee Milliner and Antonio Cromartie. Both the first-round rookie and the once-elite veteran have struggled mightily this season as the Jets' 1-2 punch (pillow smack) at cornerback. They'll be tested Sunday against an offense predicated on stretching the field on the perimeter, especially since they've proven to be extremely vulnerable on a weekly basis. Just one burn on either player could be the difference, so they'll need to up their game against Torrey Smith & Co., or it could be a long day.

The Jets are 1-7 all-time against the Ravens, having only won the teams' first meeting in 1997. Ryan has yet to sniff a win against his former team, but he hopes three is a charm. The Baltimore trip is also a reunion for Reed, who will certainly be rearing to go alongside another ex-Raven, safety Dawan Landry. Gang Green most recently fell to the Ravens in 2011 by a 34-17 margin after losing, 10-9, the year before.

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