The New York Jets are coming off an ugly defeat to the Buffalo Bills, but they still maintain control over the sixth and final Wild Card spot in the AFC. The Jets are 5-5 and hold the tiebreaker over the 5-5 Miami Dolphins, with that pair being followed by six 4-6 teams in the standings. The Jets will play three of those six teams in the final month and a half of the season, and the first of those contests is Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens have lost four of their last five, but the defending champs remain a dangerous team, and they are certainly a desperate one. If the Ravens lose this game they will essentially be eliminated from playoff contention, because it is unlikely that they could run the table against their difficult schedule. Even if they did, the Jets would still hold the tiebreak, and other teams could as well.
With that in the mind, expect the Ravens to play like a team that knows they have to win to survive. The Jets’ offensive line will have to play much better than it did on Sunday, as Terrell Suggs and the Ravens’ pass rush will be coming hard after Geno Smith. The Ravens rank 3rd in the NFL in sacks, while the Jets have allowed the 4th most. This is a major mismatch, and it could be the key to the game.
However, the Jets should be able to stop the Ravens’ offense, especially Ray Rice and the run game. The Jets lead the league in rush yards allowed per game, and they are the only team in the NFL giving up less than three yards per carry. Joe Flacco will have to carry the Ravens’ offense, but he has struggled all season and has thrown five interceptions in his last three games.
All signs point to this game being a low scoring, physical football game, and the team that makes the fewest mistakes will likely win. That means that Smith must take care of the football, and Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner cannot give up any big plays. The Jets have not been able to find any consistency this season, and they have struggled on the road. Those things need to change on Sunday.
The Jets control their own destiny and have five of their remaining six games against fellow AFC Wild Card Contenders. That means that they will have the opportunity to earn their way in and take the opposition along the way. That starts Sunday against the Ravens, and if the Jets can win they will be in great shape, and the Ravens will be out of playoff contention.