Jets at Ravens Preview: Gang Green Looks to Rebound Versus Formidable Crows

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets looks on against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on September 25, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

New York Jets @ Baltimore Ravens -- Sunday, Oct. 2nd, 8:20 p.m. EST

Location: M&T Bank Stadium 1101 Russell Street Baltimore, MD 21230

Coverage: Nationally broadcast on NBC's Sunday Night Football. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will call the game, Michele Tafoya will field report. Westwood One Radio: Dave Sims James Lofton Sean Landeta. SIRIUS: 94 (WW1) 92 (NYJ) 93 (Bal) XM: 227 (WW1) 225 (NYJ), 226 (Bal)

Who is favored? Baltimore Ravens by 3.5 points. :(

Record: Ravens lead regular season series 6-1. Ravens are 3-0 hosting the Jets at home. The Jets last regular season victory against the Ravens was in 1997.

What happened last time? You probably remember, but the Ravens beat the Jets in a squeaker, 10-9. The defense played fairly well in the 2010 opener, but the offensive was pathetic and the entire team was penalty laden.

Both teams are 2-1 with erratic production and tough, unlikely losses where they were favored to win.

Ravens LB Terrell Suggs is known to wear Bart Scott's "Can't Wait" line t-shirts and promote Eric's cause.

Santonio Holmes is seeking his 7th consecutive TD in a game versus the Ravens. As a Steeler, Holmes was one of the most productive players in the NFL against the Ravens.

Joe Flacco has a greater QB rating than Sanchez by one full point at 91.9. Mark Sanchez has a greater number of passing completions, attempts, and a better completion percentage. Sanchez also has two more interceptions than Flacco. Statistically speaking, the 2011 numbers of both QB's are eerily similar.

Injury report: (If you haven't figured it out yet, I don't list players with the status "probable")

Jets Out: Logan Payne (WR) Wrist,  Questionable: Nick Mangold (C) Ankle. 

Ravens  Out: Lee Evans (WR) Ankle, Haruki Nakamura (S) Knee, David Reed (WR) Shoulder, Jimmy Smith (CB) Ankle. Doubtful: Dannell Ellerbe (LB) Thigh. Questionable: Chris Carr (CB) Thigh, Ben Grubbs (G) Toe.

Rankings

Offense: After 3 weeks of play, the Jets are 16th overall, 25th in rushing (blech), and 10th in passing . The Ravens are 11th overall, 8th in rushing, and 13th in passing.

Defense: The Jets sit at 11th in overall defensive rank, 31st in rushing defense (YIKES), and are 6th against the pass. The Ravens are 13th in overall defense, 6th against the rush, and 17th against the pass.

A breakdown after the jump.

Whenever the Jets and Ravens meet, the top story in my mind will always be the Ravens defensive coordinator of 10 years coming home to face his old team. It's no secret that several of the Jets current players originally hail from either Baltimore or one of their AFC North rivals. The Jets top three receivers, Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, and Derrick Mason all played for the AFC North. Jim Leonhard and Bart Scott used to play for Baltimore as you know. Countless players including linebackers Suggs and Ray Lewis played under Rex Ryan's tutelage.

These two teams know each other so well, and may very well be as close in style as two teams can get. There are no secrets or tricks in this game, anything of the sort would be foolish misdirection. This game will only be won through hard, physical football fundamentals. Rex seems keen to build off his shortcomings from the last meeting, and I don't think either team will take the other for granted.

Injury woe is you?

A large amount of attention has been payed to the health and game status of Antonio Cromartie and Nick Mangold. It seems the focal point of the media has been whether or not the Jets can make adjustments, at least it seems that way on our end.

But that's not the complete story. Receivers Lee Evans (who we know well from Buffalo) and Reed will not be in this game, which means less of a test for Kyle Wilson, who I am optimistic about lately. Rookies Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams are the most likely to see action in their stead. Ben Grubbs, their starting left guard, is questionable but I bet he suits up at the end of the day.

On defense, backup defensive backs Jimmy Smith and Nakamura will miss the game, something which bodes well for Sanchez. Situational CB Chris Carr is questionable. Reserve LB Ellerbe will likely miss the game. All of this bodes well for the Jets passing offense, which is not only familiar with the Ravens secondary, but can outmatch it apart from their starting free safety.

Should Mangold play?

Every indication is that if injured center Nick Mangold can play, he will. There is no indication as to whether or not he will be able to go. Personally speaking, I'd rather lose this game, as critical as it is, and have Mangold healthy 100% the rest of the year. But we need all the help on the line we can get, so I will not complain if he forces himself back into the game. Just consider our options (or lack thereof) if Nick aggravates or re-injures himself.

Ravens players to watch: S Ed Reed.

Ed Reed is the definition of ball hawk, and one of the best safeties in the league, ask anybody. He will be watching Sanchez's throws all night long, and you can bet he may be playing off of a few sets in order to pick off errant throws. If Reed doesn't play tight to an eligible receiver, we can and should make him pay. Either way, Sanchez will need to watch his throw accuracy more than ever with Reed floating wherever he and Harbaugh see fit.

OLB Terrell Suggs.

Suggs leads the conference in sacks. You can also bet your bottom dollar that he will be testing the weakened Jets offensive line all night long. Not only will Suggs be a threat in the backfield, but his presence on the outside is formidable. If the Jets try to rush at all, it will likely be to the outside, and I think that's prudent. However, on the few downs where Suggs or Jarret Johnson aren't trying to penetrate the backfield, expect them to be waiting with open arms for our RB's when they run to the outside. Suggs is one of the major players we have to beat in order to win this game.

DE Haloti Ngata

Our last Raven to watch is a major threat on the line who had a lackluster game against the Rams. Not taking the threat he poses into account would be a mistake. Ngata will likely matchup on the left side with Terrell Suggs directly behind him. When one doesn't get through, the other may very well. Expect them both to be testing and pressing our offensive line all night long.

Jets X-Factor(s): Mark Sanchez

Simply put, the Jets will once again not be in any position to rush the ball. Any ideas that the rushing game has a good chance of taking off this week are frankly naive and misguided. Even the Jets staff are starting to admit that we are now a pass first offense, something many of us are not comfortable with.

The Ravens will do anything they can to crush LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene up front, and they certainly have the talent depth in the front seven to do so. Whether Mangold plays or not the line will be deeply stressed by pressure from Baltimore on both passing and running downs.

So once again, the game will fall on the shoulders of Mark Sanchez. Injuries to the Ravens receivers and secondary will mean they will not be able to match us in terms of vertical passing game. Our secondary is vastly superior and they are banged up. To win, will w have to exploit weaknesses in the pass defense, however minute they may be.

I truly believe Mark is capable of winning this game for us, but he will only do so if he 1.does not hold on to the ball so long 2.exploits mismatches in the secondary and delivers the ball to Santonio Holmes on critical downs 3.continues to properly use check downs and screen passes this week and 4.uses our other X-factor this week:

Jets X-Factor(s): Dustin Keller

I've been all about Keller lately, and with good reason. Keller is ranked #2 at his position behind Rob Gronkowski in our conference. Keller has been central to our passing offense and its new found success. The Ravens thinned out secondary will almost certainly double on either Holmes, Burress, or both when they realize how quickly Brian Schottenheimer will abandon the rush.

When this double coverage happens, and it will, the only solution is to either find an open Keller down the middle, check down the ball for a short gain, or to run a draw (which often isn't practical). Any of these, if executed properly, will keep the Ravens honest for large gains. If Keller is consistently exploited the Ravens may be forced to bring a safety or coverage backer down on him, which would greatly improve our passing prospects.

Matchup to watch this week: Antonio Cromartie v.s. Torrey Smith.

Darrelle Revis will neutralize Anquan Boldin from the game entirely. This isn't to say that Flacco won't test the coverage a couple of times, but largely speaking you can forget about Boldin. Smith has had all of his notable NFL production in one very active quarter against the St. Louis Rams. I think everybody expects that the tall and physical Cromartie is best suited to take on the youngster.

I think Cro has everything to prove this week, against a receiver who is probably overrated coming off of his only big performance ever (which to be fair was against an NFC West team). Revis and Wilson already have favorable matchups, and I think Cro handily keeps pace with Smith and shows him what a real secondary operates like.

Potential Jets MVP(s): Nick Folk and T.J. Conley.

Every Jets-Ravens meeting in history drives home the point of how crucial field positioning and fighting for every single yard is when you face Baltimore. The score of 10-9 in our last meeting should be all the proof you need.

You could make the argument that if Folk's leg had been more accurate last season, the Jets would have had a couple of extra W's under their belt. The Ravens are no exception. Folk has been consistent when called upon this year, and could account for most (or perhaps all) of our points on Sunday night.

Conley's success pinning the other team deep and inside the 20 has been understated. There will likely never be a greater need all season long for Conley's gift of field positioning. It could quite literally be the difference in the game.

Prediction: Jets 13 Ravens 10

The inner homer shines through and picks our beloved Jets to upset the Ravens at home and break a 6 game losing streak to the Baltimore franchise. Nobody is giving us any credit, not that I blame them with our O line and rushing, but the Jets and Ravens are a very well matched team and there are a number of mismatches we can exploit if we play fluidly and like the winning team we are. Feel free to post your own predictions below. 

Hopefully when this is said and done we're cleaning bird guts out of our engines.

J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS!!!

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