5 Baltimore Ravens To Watch Against In Game Against The New York Jets
5 Baltimore Ravens Players To Watch
The Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets are in positions that they probably didn't expect to be in at this stage of the NFL season. Baltimore was viewed as a team that could potentially avoid a Super Bowl hangover, despite a lot of roster turnover during the offseason. New York was viewed as a team looking to rebuild and retool for the future. While the sentiment surrounding the Jets is still somewhat true -- New York happens to be contending in the middle of that process -- the Ravens are going through the aforementioned hangover, but still find themselves in the mix in the AFC playoff picture. Sometimes, mediocrity is declared as parity in the NFL, but the Ravens wouldn't have it any other way at this point. They are used to proving critics and naysayers wrong when it comes to beating the odds. They did just that in 2012.
This team is not on that level and probably won't even sniff that, but this game against the Jets could be the start of something serious brewing for the defending Super Bowl champions. Anytime a team gets a stretch of three home games like the one the Ravens are on, they have to be excited for the potential to take advantage of home cooking and bring themselves back into relevance. It all starts Sunday, and if the Ravens want to make that playoff push, here are five guys they must rely on in order to get the win.
5. Courtney Upshaw
When it comes to stopping the run, there aren't a lot of guys on the Ravens' roster who are better than outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw. His proficiency in setting the edge and finishing tackles is a role the Ravens have always had as a mainstay of their defense, despite free agency and roster turnover. The Jets are eighth in the league in rushing the football. They aren't going to trust Geno Smith all that much. Upshaw must be big.
4. Joe Flacco
It's easy to say the quarterback has to be better, but it's the obvious point in regards to Joe Flacco this week against the Jets. Baltimore won't duplicate what they did on the ground last week against the top rushing-defense in the league in the Jets. New York is 22nd against the pass and features a secondary that includes a struggling Dee Milliner, a veteran corner who isn't the same without Darrelle Revis in Antonio Cromartie, and two former aging Ravens safeties in Dawan Landry and Ed Reed. You would like to think the Ravens will light it up through the air, but there is no guarantee, especially given Baltimore's inability to play offense in the second half for much of the season.
3. Ray Rice
Last week in Chicago was a nice bounce back for Ravens running back Ray Rice, but he has a mountain to climb this week against the Jets. If his confidence remains high from last week, we may see another strong game from him. That being said, I expect a below average output once again as the Ravens come back to reality in the ground game. 75 total yards rushing is a victory.
2. James Ihedigbo
The Ravens should be able to force turnovers against the turnover-happy Jets, especially with Geno Smith at quarterback. It will start and finish with James Ihedigbo at the back end of the Baltimore secondary. His presence in the ground game will be felt, as he will probably play more in the box to try and corral guys like Chris Ivory. His ability to play instinctively, not bite on play-action ,and provide support in coverage to the limited options of the Jets will be essential.
1. Terrell Suggs
As I mentioned before, this game will come down to whether or not the Ravens can force turnovers against an offense that usually gives the ball away frequently. Terrell Suggs and the rest of the front seven must be huge in terms of applying pressure, and I fully expect defensive coordinator Dean Pees to be dialing up some creative stunts and blitzes to do so. The king of sack-fumbles in Baltimore must have a few of those, or at least one, Sunday in order to make a difference in the final outcome.