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New York Jets: 5 Things to Watch for vs Baltimore Ravens

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New York Jets: 5 Things to Watch for vs Baltimore Ravens

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets will face the Baltimore Ravens this week in a game that has huge playoff implications for both teams. The Jets are 5-5 and holding the sixth and final Wild Card spot in the AFC, while the 4-6 Ravens are right behind them in the standings.

Both teams desperately need a win, as a loss for the Jets would be very damaging to their playoff chances, while a loss for the Ravens would effectively eliminate them from playoff contention. Jets head coach Rex Ryan is very familiar with the Ravens and their schemes from his time there, and he should be able to give the Jets’ offense some important insights on what they could see on Sunday.

The Jets have been wildly inconsistent on offense this season, and rookie quarterback Geno Smith has had three straight bad games. There has been some talk of a quarterback controversy in New York, and Smith needs to play well to end that speculation.

Defensively, the Jets had an extremely disappointing performance against the Buffalo Bills last week, particularly the pass defense. The Jets lead the NFL in run defense, but their poor pass defense has failed them time and time again.

The Jets badly need this win in order to maintain their playoff standing, and they need to rebound after last week’s disastrous performance. The Jets control their own destiny, and this is the first of five games they play against fellow AFC Wild Card contenders down the stretch. It is time for the Jets to rise to the occasion and play like a playoff team, and these are five keys to victory.

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Offensive Line Must Play Better

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets have allowed the 4th most sacks in the NFL this season, and that blame can be fairly evenly divided between the offensive line and Smith’s tendency to hold onto the ball too long. However, last week’s poor display was mostly the line’s fault, as they repeatedly failed to pick up the blitz and give Smith time.

The Ravens are tied for 4th in the league in sacks, and their pass rush appears to be a major a mismatch for the Jets. The Ravens will bring blitzes and heavy pressure in an attempt to rattle Smith and force him to make mistakes. The Jets desperately need their offensive line to play at the top of their game this week, or it will be impossible to get the passing attack on track.

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Pass Defense Can't Allow Big Plays

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets have struggled all year to defend the pass, ranking 22nd in the league in pass yards allowed per game. The Jets rank 23rd in pass touchdowns allowed, and cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner were both torched by the Bills’ third and fourth string receivers for touchdowns last week.

Torrey Smith poses a huge threat to the Jets this week, and the secondary needs to prevent him from getting open over the top. The Jets do not have the ability to keep up with explosive offenses, meaning their defense has to keep games low scoring. The secondary has been the weak link all year, and if they don’t play better, the Jets will not make the playoffs.

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Can Defense Force Turnovers?

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The other key flaw the defense has is a lack of takeaways. The Jets are tied for last in the league in takeaways, with just seven. They signed Ed Reed specifically to make a difference in this area, and this week he spoke at length about the need for turnovers in an attempt to motivate his teammates.

Joe Flacco has thrown 13 interceptions this season, 5th most in the NFL, including 5 in his last three games. The Jets should be able to have some opportunities to make plays on the ball and force an interception or two. They need these big plays to set up their offense in good field position and keep the game low scoring.

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Geno Smith Needs to Break Out of Slump

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Many people are saying there is a quarterback controversy brewing, though the Jets have reiterated many times that Smith is their quarterback. What is not up for debate, however, is that he has played very poorly his last three games. Smith has completed just 36/72 passes for 377 yards, 0 TDs and 5 INTs. Three of those picks have been returned for touchdowns, Smith has been sacked 9 times and he has been benched twice.

Smith desperately needs to pick up his performance this week, because the Jets cannot afford to have continued poor play at quarterback down the stretch. The Ravens have a solid pass defense (13th in the NFL), so it’s not like Smith will have things easy. If Smith is really the Jets’ quarterback of the future, then he needs to prove it with consistent, turnover free play as they make their playoff push, and that begins Sunday.

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Can Jets Improve Performance on Road?

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets are famous for their inconsistency this season, but it actually breaks down to their home/road splits. The Jets are 4-1 at home but 1-4 on the road, and Baltimore is a tough place to play. The Jets are going to need to get some road wins down the stretch if they are going to make the playoffs.

The Jets have a chance to start eliminating their playoff competition this week, and win over the Ravens would be a huge boost their playoff chances. They need to control the ball and the clock with their ground game and keep the game low scoring. The Jets need to pick up their road performance this week, because they cannot afford a second straight loss.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google