Thursday night’s game against the Ravens could be the toughest all year. Had the Jets won two weeks ago in Cincinnati, they’d be 6-7 now and fans would be talking themselves into the possibility of an upset win over one of the AFC’s best teams keeping their slender playoff hopes alive. Now, especially in light of the injured players lost over the past few weeks, a blow-out is widely anticipated.
Lamar Jackson was never a realistic consideration for the Jets when they made the third pick in the 2018 draft, but he’s made a faster start to his career than the other quarterbacks selected in the first round that year and is a legitimate MVP candidate in his second season.
Jackson has continued to develop as a passer, completing 66 percent of his passes with 28 touchdowns and only six interceptions. However, it’s as a rusher where he’s a uniquely dynamic talent. Jackson became the first quarterback since Mike Vick to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season against the Bills on Sunday, despite being held to a season-low 40 rushing yards.
Over the course of the season, Jackson has racked up four hundred-yard games and seven rushing touchdowns.
Jackson was limited with a quad injury earlier this week but will play on Thursday night. If he was knocked out, both back-ups also possess dual threat abilities. Robert Griffin III is the number two and has completed 12 of 16 passes in relief duties.
Sixth-round pick Trace McSorley is the number three but is yet to play so far this season.
The Ravens’ success this year has been fueled by their offensive line, which has enjoyed good continuity throughout the season.
They are led by left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who is one of the league’s best. However, he is listed as doubtful with a concussion.
The line did already take a hit a few weeks ago when starting center Matt Skura suffered a season-ending injury and forced undrafted rookie Patrick Mekari into the starting line-up.
They may therefore be weakest up the middle with right guard Marshal Yanda past his prime at 35 years old and left guard Bradley Bozeman leading the team with six penalties and four sacks surrendered.
Orlando Brown Jr. is the other starter at right tackle and the versatile James Hurst is the only reserve to see any action this season. He will presumably start for Stanley at left tackle. Hurst has started there before but is ideally a better fit at guard or right tackle.
Fourth-round rookie Ben Powers and two other former draft picks - Hroniss Grasu and Parker Ehinger - are available as cover.
The Ravens possess the number one rushing offense in the NFL as they are averaging over 200 yards a game. The next best - San Francisco - averages less than 150. That’s bolstered significantly by Jackson’s production though, much of which doesn’t come on designed runs.
Nevertheless, they will still present a challenge for the Jets’ league-leading run defense in their conventional running game.
Veteran Mark Ingram needs 113 more yards to post a thousand-yard season, which would make him and Jackson the first duo to achieve this since 2009 and only the seventh in league history. Ingram also has nine rushing touchdowns and 23 catches.
Gus Edwards contributes well as a change of pace because he’s averaging over five yards per carry.
Fourth-round pick Justice Hill also gets some touches and Patrick Ricard has eight catches while contributing as a blocking back.
Baltimore’s leading receiver is tight end Mark Andrews, who has been dealing with a knee injury but returned to practice on Tuesday. Andrews leads the team with 54 catches, 707 yards and seven touchdowns.
Even if Andrews is limited, the Ravens should still get some decent production out of their other tight ends. Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst each have over 25 catches and a couple of touchdowns.
Their leading wide receiver has been first-round pick Marquise Brown, who has 39 catches, over 500 yards and six touchdowns. Has he hit the rookie wall though? In the past two games, he has just four catches for minus-one yard since scoring two times in the blowout win over the Rams.
Another rookie, Miles Boykin, who was selected in the third round, is listed as the other starter. He has only 11 catches but leads the team with an average of almost 17 yards per catch.
Veterans Willie Snead and Seth Roberts get most of the remaining reps. Snead is a good possession receiver out of the slot so could be expected to have a big day with Brian Poole out again.
Of the other reserves, Chris Moore has just three catches and Jaleel Scott or D’Anthony Thomas have only played one snap between them.
The Ravens play in a 3-4 scheme with starters Brandon Williams, Michael Pearce and Chris Wormley all making good contributions against the run.
Justin Ellis and the 35-year old Domata Peko also get some rotational work, while the fullback Ricard often pulls double-duties and gets rotational reps on the line as well.
Daylon Mack was drafted in the fifth round to add more depth but is on injured reserve.
The Ravens’ pass rush is keyed by Matt Judon who has 8.5 sacks and also leads the Ravens in quarterback hits and tackles for loss. The other starting edge, third-round rookie Jaylon Ferguson, has had an underwhelming start to his career with just two sacks.
Although Pernell McPhee landed on injured reserve in October, veterans Jihad Ward and Tyus Bowser provide good support off the bench. Bowser has four sacks and also scored on a fumble return.
On the inside, the Ravens have done their best to overcome the loss of CJ Mosley in free agency. Josh Bynes has been good against the run but Patrick Onwuasor has been disappointing.
LJ Fort also gets plenty of reps and has done well in coverage. Chris Board is the other back-up but he has been ruled out with concussion symptoms.
The Ravens’ midseason trade for Marcus Peters has provided a massive boost to their postseason hopes. In just seven games, Peters has three interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns.
Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr are still officially listed as the starters. Humphrey has 10 penalties but decent coverage numbers. He’s also scored twice on fumble returns.
The 31-year old Jimmy Smith has spent most of the year in a rotational role but he started last week. Anthony Averett is currently out of the rotation but got some playing time earlier in the year.
Iman Marshall was drafted in the fourth round but has yet to make any defensive contributions.
Baltimore’s big name at safety is Earl Thomas who has been excellent in coverage but poor against the run. Alongside him, Chuck Clark became a starter when Tony Jefferson went on injured reserve in October. Clark is actually the Ravens’ leading tackler.
Anthony Levine, the third safety and essentially a hybrid linebacker, is currently dealing with an ankle injury but should play. If he’s limited, Jordan Richards could fill in for him. Brynden Trawick was recently activated but he’s more of a special teamer.
The Ravens have arguably the best kicker in the league with Justin Tucker having missed just two of his 72 kicks this season. The punter isn’t bad either as Sam Koch has allowed only 60 return yards all season.
Thomas is the primary return man, but Moore, Snead, Brown and Hill are all also options. Hill had a 46-yard kick return earlier in the season.
The Ravens are good in punt coverage but gave up a 92-yard kick-off return against the Bengals. However, adding Trawick to that group should help matters. He already has three tackles in three games, although Fort leads the team with nine.