Remember earlier this season when I said that the Dolphins/Ravens match up was the most difficult game to predict this season?
This game is truly a head-scratcher. The best run offense vs. the best run defense. An established powerhouse vs. a team that exponentially improves every week. A rock star rookie quarterback vs. an experienced defense. Who blinks first?
No matter what happens in the Meadowlands on Sunday afternoon, I think we can all agree on two things. First, this game should be exciting from the opening whistle until the clock reads zeros. Second, this game will tell us a lot about the 2008 Baltimore Ravens.
Are they a Super Bowl threat or a team that has skated by against sub-par competition? Are the Ravens for real?
I think they are. I think this is a team on a mission, and if they do make the playoffs, I’d hate to be playing for the other team. The potential this team possesses strikes fear in the hearts of opposing coaches and players alike. But can they live up to their potential?
The Ravens’ success during the back stretch will be determined by three things:
1. Will they overcome all of these injuries? The Ravens lead the NFL in players listed on IR with 16; a stat that no one is proud of, but something that they have to overcome.
2. Will they beat Pittsburgh in the rematch in Baltimore? Looking at the schedule, I believe that this game with Pittsburgh will not only determine whether or not the Ravens win the division, but I think it will determine whether or not the Ravens make the playoffs. The Colts have a soft schedule and could easily amass 10 wins despite a disappointing start. If it comes down to a tie…well, we all know how that story ends. And I’ll be hating life for days if the Colts knock us out of the playoffs again.
3. Will Joe Flacco play like a polished veteran instead of a promising rookie in the back stretch? I’m ALMOST completely convinced Flacco can lead us to the playoffs, and I think this game will tell us whether or not we have a shot at playing football in January, win or lose. I’m as Wacko for Flacco as the next guy, but I think we’re all more excited about things to come from #5 than his present-day play on the field. He’s been improving from week to week, and if this trend continues…watch out Pittsburgh.
My prediction: This game will be close, and if it were played in Baltimore, I would probably pick the Ravens. Going with my head instead of my heart, I’m taking the defending Super Bowl champions this week. Would I be shocked if the Ravens won this game? Not really. But, taking off the purple glasses for a second, this is a very tough game for the Ravens to win. Could Brandon Jacobs be the first back to break the 100 yard mark against the Ravens in 28 games?
Ravens – 20
Giants – 23
Pivotal Match-Up: Joe Flacco vs. Giants pass defense. The Giants have the second best pass defense in the NFL. Can Flacco give us with another mistake-free performance?
Where it could all go wrong: Ravens run defense holds true; big plays on special teams; Flacco busts the Giants chops; Ravens pass rush forces Eli Manning to throw a few too many picks.
Surprising statistic: The Ravens have NEVER lost to the Giants, earning a 3-0 record against Big Blue. Just in case some of you forgot, that includes Super Bowl XXXV. Speaking of which, has anyone else caught the 2000 Ravens “America’s Game” episode on NFL Network On Demand? I think I’ve watched it 5 times this week. An extra stat: Derrick Mason leads the AFC in receptions since 2003 with 494. No, I’m not kidding. This guy is a true professional. I hope he can play and be effective this week.
Last Week’s winner: My man Franchise gets the check mark, predicting a 31-10 Ravens victory. Remember when Ozzie Newsome was getting verbally crucified on the airwaves? I guess all of us should trust the Franchise. My pick: 29-12 Ravens. Actual Score: 41-13 Ravens.
Week 9 Winner: Johnny Rocket picked the closest score, predicting a 22-16 Ravens win. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the Ravens to put up 37 points on the road. My pick: 23-17 Browns. Actual score: 37-27 Ravens.
Week 8 winner: Nestminder is our first back-to-back winner, picking the Ravens to win 24-6. We had a record-low in the number of predictions received, but we can rebound this week. We’ll chalk that one up to the new website. My pick: 27-6 Ravens. Actual score: 29-10 Ravens
Week 7 winner: Nestminder picked a 20-13 Ravens victory and Polostat was a close second. My pick: 24-16 Ravens. Actual score: 27-13 Ravens.
Week 6 winner: Johnny Rocket correctly picked against the Ravens, per usual, predicting a 32-8 Colts victory. My pick: 28-23 Colts. Actual score: 31-3 Colts.
Week 5 winner: Columbia Ken picked the closest score, predicting a 17-13 Titans victory. My pick: 17-9 Ravens. Actual score: 13-10 Titans
Week 4 winner: Jon R. reluctantly picked a 24-20 win for the Steelers. My pick: 13-10 Ravens. Actual score: 23-20 Steelers (OT)
Week 3 winner: EazyE picked a 23-13 win for the Ravens vs. Cleveland. My pick: 23-13 Ravens. Actual score: 24-10 Ravens.
What are your predictions this week?