Week 12 Plotlines: vs. New York Jets
Put up or shut up. That has to be the theme this week. The Ravens and the Jets—two teams that are fighting for the final playoff berth—are they contenders are pretenders? In the watered-down AFC, the answer to that question may be both.
Both teams trot out squads that are called “offense,” but both squads are really just offensive. Prepare for an ugly defensive struggle (aka offensive ineptitude) that will meander on throughout the afternoon—The Great Battle of Attrition.
Today’s game may resemble 2011’s Ravens-Jets clash, when five of the six total touchdowns were scored by the defense and special teams. The final score was 34-17 in favor of the Ravens, but only one offensive touchdown was scored—a Ray Rice run.
All mocking aside, here are today’s plotlines.
First Down Productivity
One of today’s keys for a Ravens’ victory is winning the battle on first down when on offense. The Ravens appeared to have gotten their run game untracked last week, rushing for 174 yards against the meek Chicago Bears’ run defense that ranked 30th in the league. The Jets have the top-ranked run defense, limiting teams to 73.2 yards a game.
The Ravens cannot afford to squander opportunities on first down by consistently running the ball against this tough Jets defense. The Ravens will need to throw the ball on first down—quick hitches, slants, etc.—using a short passing game to replace the run game. Using this strategy, the receivers will need to win the battle at the line of scrimmage against press coverage.
The Ravens need to be unpredictable on first down, throwing early with the hopes of establishing some semblance of a running game later in the game.
Attack the Jets’ Revolving Door
The Jets have a good offensive line, but they are severely deficient at right tackle. The original starter, Vladimir Ducasse, has been replaced by Brian Winters, and according to Pro Football Focus they both struggle mightily. Elvis Dumervil may have a big day.
By bringing heavy pressure on the right side of the offensive line, the Ravens can flush Jets quarterback Geno Smith and have him try throwing while running to his left—much harder on a quarterback. Of course, this could also flush him from the pocket and allow him to make plays with his legs.
Either way, the Ravens should attack the weakness of the Jets’ offensive line.
Connecting on the Deep Pass
According to Matthew Berry of ESPN, no team has allowed more touchdowns on passes of 15 yards downfield than the Jets. Torrey Smith is third in the league on targets of 15 or more yards downfield. The numbers intimate that this is a good matchup.
On the other hand, Joe Flacco has struggled throwing the deep ball his year. When extending the above statistic beyond 15 yards, Flacco has thrown 46 passes over 20 yards downfield, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. However, he has only has completed 21.7 percent of those passes. Moreover, he has more interceptions than touchdowns.
A key to today’s game will be whether or not the Ravens can take advantage of the Jets’ passing defense by overcoming their own weakness with the deep ball.
By now, the Ravens’ selection of John Harbaugh over Rex Ryan as their head coach is well documented. Rex is brash, aggressive, flamboyant, and is the epitome of a players’ coach. John is a more polished, humble, CEO-type of leader. Both have had tremendous success.
Rex has done a heck of a job coaching this year. Many, including me, thought that the Jets were going to be a bottom feeder of the league, with Rex serving as a lame duck coach in the last year of his contract. But here they are, in a good position to make the playoffs. Rex has rallied his troops and pulled together a team when many thought that this team was a lost cause, a team in a transitional state. He is, and should be, commended for that.
That being said, Rex is just not good enough at cultivating an offense in today’s NFL. The way Mark Sanchez was mismanaged is a prime example. Sanchez is limited talent-wise, but Rex did not help his progress. Currently, Rex is charged with grooming Geno Smith, another quarterback with questionable talent. Rex’s ground-and-pound philosophy stunts the growth of a quarterback. Can you imagine where Joe Flacco would be had Rex been named the coach back in 2008? Scary proposition.
Rex may last beyond this year in New York. He may not. He may land on his feet in another head coaching position. However, like Norv Turner, I believe Rex is best suited as a coordinator. He is awesome when running a brash, aggressive, and flamboyant defense.
Ballhawking at M&T, Part II
Ed Reed returns, this time in a defense that is “better suited” for his skills. Hogwash. The Ravens need to attack him with the deep pass. If the Ravens had a serviceable tight end, I would suggest attacking him that way, too. But alas, the Ravens are deficient at the tight end position.
Reed may have one more throwback, stellar game in him, and today’s game would be the perfect stage. This should not sway the Ravens one iota. Attack Reed deep. He may even get a pick today. If that does happen, the Ravens should again attack him deep. Keep going after him. Be relentless. I think Joe Flacco will relish this opportunity, but we shall we see.
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An avid sports fan, and a passionate Ravens fan. However, I don't always wear the purple-shaded glasses.