One game at a time has been the mindset of this Ravens team so far this year, and today will be no different. The Ravens are aware that they can secure a playoff spot, if the Bills defeat the Patriots today, but their focus is on beating the Jaguars at home to make sure they lock up a spot for postseason play.
The Jaguars may be using winning this game and knocking the Ravens out of the playoff picture if the Patriots win as motivation, but I do not think that will be enough to help them secure a victory today. The Ravens are focused and know that the Jags will have that on their minds, but feel like they can come out and set a tone early and eliminate any hope of that happening for them.
Jags quarterback David Garrard has not had the kind of season that many would have hoped after the stellar year he had last year. The Jags have not been able to protect Garrard this year, as he has been sacked 41 times, the second most in the NFL behind Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Cassel with 46. Garrard can still get out of the pocket and make some plays happen with his legs, but not like he was able to last year. Look for the Ravens to come after Garrard and put pressure on him. With a banged up Maurice Jones-Drew, a pieced together offensive line, and and average receiving corp, the Ravens can cause a lot of havoc for Garrard up front, possibly leading to interceptions.
Wear down the defense
The Jags come in with the #12 overall defense in the NFL, giving up 324 yds per game. I look for the Ravens to pound away with the running game at the Jags today and try to again make them realize as a player said earlier this week ” they are not coming in here to ruin our party.” The Jags on average give up 105 yds rushing a game, and with the Ravens likely to have all three of their running backs today, they will try to just beat the Jags down. The Ravens will likely have Ray Rice back today which will help them in their running attack.
The Ravens are expecting an amped up crowd today, as they return home after a huge win over the Cowboys and also play their final game of the 2008 regular season which will be for a chance to go to the playoffs on the line. The Ravens will have their Pro Bowl players introduced out of the tunnel today. They will also honor the ’58 Championship game between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants at halftime with players from that game and some of the family members of other players from that game taking part in the ceremony.
What do you do ?
Although the Ravens are not focused on this, but the topic of resting your players if the Patriots do not win against the Bills has come up this week. The Ravens should know right when they are about to kick off if the Pats have won or not, so there is not much the team can do as far as not dressing guys for this game based on that. I have no problem with Coach Harbaugh approaching it with sort of a final preseason game plan if the outcome of their game does not matter one way or another. Especially if you can let a Willie Anderson or Derrick Mason get a series or two in with the offense and them have them rested heading into the playoffs. Brian Billick has a much more in depth and different way of thinking as it relates to this topic.
The Ravens will not have to hope for a Patriots loss today, as I think they will take care of business against the Jaguars with a 23-13 win this afternoon.
Finally, just because this has been the way things have kind of gone for the Ravens this year, I would not be suprised at all to see Yamon Figurs return one the distance today.