Monday’s night’s game between the New York Jets and the Baltimore Ravens features two playoff teams from last year, and two similar teams who have identical philosophies on offense, defense, and special teams.
Both the Ravens and the Jets are teams that are going to control the clock and pound you on defense and in the run game, even with some of the big name free agent acquisitions Baltimore and New York made in the off-season in their receiving corps.
And both teams have also partaken in the war of words this week, as the Darrelle Revis signing earlier in the week prompted Ravens FB Le’Ron McClain to say that they were glad to see him back so that “so that there wont be any excuses”, which then prompted Jets coach Rex Ryan to respond on his own, saying:
“I don’t know what’s wrong with Le’Ron,” Ryan said. “He said something about there’s no excuses…He must have us confused with someone else.”
“We don’t make excuses. All we do is produce…and that’s what we plan on doing Monday night.”
And then there was the war of words between Ray Lewis and Rex Ryan on Thursday and Friday.
“We’re talking about the Jets like we’re talking about the Saints,” Ray Lewis said on Thursday to both the New York and Baltimore media. “Those are the only people who can be dethroned: Drew Brees and the Saints, not Mark Sanchez and the Jets.”
Lewis made sure to heed a warning to Ryan.
“The only danger is writing a check you can’t cash,” Lewis said. “That’s pressure on his players. Rex can talk all he wants to, but Rex ain’t putting on the pads.”
Rex responded as best he could.
“It sounds like we got under Ray’s nerves a bit,” Ryan responded.
But the game isn’t being played in the game of words. It’s going to be played in a smash-mouth style of play when the teams hit the gridiron on Monday.
Let’s take a look at the match ups when the Ravens and Jets offenses take the field against the opposing defenses.
1. Ravens Passing Offense vs. Jets Passing Defense. EDGE: Ravens.
Normally, I would give the edge to the Jets in this department, but over the last week the Ravens added T.J. Houshmandzadeh and I think that gives them a slight edge in that department with Houshmandzadeh lining up against rookie corner Kyle Wilson. The Jets re-signed Revis earlier this week to a 4 year deal worth 48 million dollars, but he is not in 100% football shape whatsoever. He should still be good enough to shut down Anquan Boldin, but a quick Mason should be able to break away from Antonio Cromartie’s poor tackling prowess.
The Jets’ best pass rusher is out in Calvin Pace (broken foot), which certainly helps the Ravens’ loss of RT Jared Gaither and the injury concerns of backup Oniel Cousins. Marshal Yanda could be heading out to play tackle, and Chris Chester could be filling in for Yanda at guard. There could be some concerns on the right side, but I think overall Joe Flacco should be able to stay upright for the majority of the game.
Ravens Run Offense vs. Jets Rush Defense: Jets
I don’t think either team is going to be very effective at running the football against these run defenses. Much like with the Ravens, former Maryland Terp Kris Jenkins (6-4, 360) is going to command a lot of attention in the middle. When healthy, Jenkins is one of the top nose tackles in the business.The same goes for defensive end Shaun Ellis, who is a quality run stuffer as well as a decent pass rusher for the Jets.
And on top of Jenkins are inside linebackers Bart Scott and David Harris. Scott is widely known as one of the best inside backers in football, and Harris is probably one of the more underrated guys in the business. Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain may be fresh having seen little action in the preseason, but the Jets bring just as good a run defense as the Ravens had in years past (96.5 RPG)
Jets Passing Game vs. Ravens Pass Defense: Even
Skill position wise, I think the Jets wide receivers are a lot better than the defensive backs the Ravens have. Braylon Edwards, while he drops a ton of balls, is a home-run threat and has had some success against the Ravens in the past as a member of the Cleveland Browns. No Santonio Holmes for the Jets as he is serving his four-game suspension for substance-abuse, so the Ravens don’t have to worry about his services. And in reality, the two best receivers right now for the Jets may be the biggest receivers they have on the team in Jerricho Cotchery and tight end Dustin Keller.
Ravens corner backs Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb will be coming off season-ending knee surgeries, and new corner Josh Wilson, on top of only measuring 5-8, is still getting acclimated to the defensive playbook. Dawan Landry is a thumper, but can get caught out of position at times. It will be interesting to see how Tom Zbikowski performs in a starting role in place of Ed Reed, who is listed on the PUP list. Zbikowski played well in Reed’s absence last season.
It all hangs on how well Jets QB Mark Sanchez plays in Monday’s opener. The talent is there for the Jets; Sanchez just has to get the ball to them instead of the Ravens defenders if you’re the Jets coaching staff. If the Jets are forced to abandon the run and Sanchez is forced to throw the ball more than 20x, the Ravens should win this game based on the probability that the Jets 2nd year QB will make mistakes.
Here are some of Sanchez’s notable bad performances last year-as a rookie-where he was forced to throw the ball close to 30 times a game.
New Orleans(10/4, L 24-10): 14-27, 3 INTs
Buffalo (10/29, L 16-13, 10-29, 5 INTs)
Jacksonville (11/15) Jets L 24-22, 16-30, 2 INTs
New England (11/22) Jets L 31-14, 8-21, 4 INTs
Atlanta (12/20) Jets L 10-7, 18-32, 3 INTs
In other words, if the Ravens put the ball in Sanchez’s hands, he should play right into the Ravens’ game plan.
Jets Run Offense vs. Ravens Rush Defense: Edge: Ravens
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. No one runs on the Ravens, except some guy named Cedric Benson. A lot of people think Shonn Greene is the real deal, and he will be the featured back in Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer‘s offense.
But like their QB in Sanchez, Greene also has not faced a dominant rush defense in his short NFL career as the Ravens since he has seen the bulk of the carries in New York. He has only played 17 games including the playoffs last year, and only got double-digits in carries in seven of those contests.
The Jets have two of the best offensive lineman at their respective positions in D’Brickashaw Ferguson at the left tackle spot and Nick Mangold at center. Alan Faneca is gone at the left guard spot from last year, and in his place they have youth and inexperience in the position. The favorite to start on Monday is rookie Vladimir Ducasse out of Massachusetts, and he could be the spot Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison want to exploit. Haloti Ngata, Trevor Pryce, and Cory Redding should have enough weight under them to hold off the Jets offensive lineman, and the Raven linebackers will stuff Greene before he can get down the field.
The Jets had also cut longtime fullback Tony Richardson over the weekend, but brought him back several days later. He has been a bone-crushing fullback his entire career, and one of the Ravens linebackers are going to have to bust him in the backfield before he can get some speed under him to drill some holes in the Raven defense.
Special teams: Edge: Ravens
Despite the Ravens in a frenzy to find healthy kick and punt returners, I still like the Ravens specialists over the Jets. Chris Carr, David Reed, Tom Zbikowski, and Josh Wilson could all be candidates to return kicks. Carr may not have blazing speed, but he wont take any risks when it comes to catching and running with the football on a punt.
For the Jets, safety Jim Leonhard is remembered by Baltimore fans for his ability to get some yards on punt returns (31 returns, 326 career return yards, 10.5 avg). For the Ravens, Billy Cundiff won the kicking job out of camp over veteran Shayne Graham based on his ability to kick the ball deep on touch backs in the preseason. Ravens punter Sam Koch is only a hair away from being known as a Pro-Bowl caliber punter (73 punts, 43.7 avg, 26 punts inside 20).
Jets kicker Nick Folk, a former Pro-Bowl kicker in 2007, was cut by the Cowboys last season after struggling hitting the uprights (18 out of 28). And in a windy Meadowlands, a kicker who can’t find the uprights in a dome I think would have issues kicking in 30 MPH winds.
My prediction for the game: Ravens 21, Jets 17.
Which probably won’t make this guy happy.
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