Ray Rice bounced back in Week 11, but he faces a much more difficult opponent in Week 12.
A week after scraping together an overtime victory, the Baltimore Ravens were on the losing end of an overtime game against the Chicago Bears. With a heated race for playoff spots, each and every week is crucial. Week 12 is especially important because Baltimore hosts the New York Jets—the current occupant of the second wild-card spot in the AFC.
There will be some reminiscing as Rex Ryan and his newest addition, Ed Reed, come back to M&T Bank Stadium. Regardless, all nostalgia will go out the window once the whistle blows, since both teams are jockeying for one playoff spot.
Here is the basic information you need to know to prepare yourself for Baltimore's upcoming Week 12 battle against the Jets.
|Pittsburgh Steelers||4-6||At Cleveland Browns|
|Cleveland Browns||4-6||Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers|
|Baltimore Ravens||4-6||Vs. New York Jets|
Last week's loss means that the Ravens no longer control their own destiny in the AFC North. Sitting two-and-a-half games behind the Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore's chances of winning the division are slim unless the Bengals start dropping games.
Furthermore, the Week 11 results involving other AFC North teams created a three-way tie for second place in the division, with the resurgent Pittsburgh Steelers back from the dead. Next week, the Steelers face the Cleveland Browns in a game that means the Ravens will need a win to stay in second place.
|WC1||Kansas City Chiefs||9-1|
|WC2||New York Jets||5-5|
|9||San Diego Chargers||4-6|
The AFC wild-card picture is getting even more complicated for Baltimore, which is why a win over New York would be a huge boost to its postseason aspirations.
Geno Smith and the Jets are currently the second wild-card team, with the Miami Dolphins equaling New York's 5-5 record. Six other teams are tied at 4-6.
The big names that were missing from last week's game were Haloti Ngata and Marlon Brown. Other players like Brandon Stokley and Ryan Jensen have been inactive for weeks, so a close eye will be kept on Ngata and Brown in practice this week to determine whether they'll be ready for the Jets game.
What Must Improve: Joe Flacco's Decision-Making
Joe Flacco has drawn the ire of critics and detractors who argue that his numbers don't match up with the size of his paycheck. Part of the problem, however, has been the multitude of unfavorable factors that he's had to work against this season including poor offensive line play, a nonexistent running game and an inconsistent defense that has given up big plays throughout the season.
None of those things were a factor in Week 11's loss to Chicago.
The running game finally got established, and Ray Rice had by far his best game of the year. The offensive line (save for Eugene Monroe) played very well and was aggressive against a depleted Bears defense.
Lastly, the defense has been outstanding for the last two games, led by a secondary that has locked down opposing receiving corps.
No, last week's loss is on Joe Flacco.
Flacco made some good plays and had a couple of nice drives (especially in the first half), but turnovers were once again a problem.
He's already thrown a career-worst 13 interceptions this season, and that's with six games left to play. Some of that is also the result of him passing the football more, but his decision-making has been questionable.
Whether Flacco is to blame or not for the loss to Chicago, he can't keep turning the ball over. He is supported by a defense that is playing lights out at the moment, and he can't continue to put it in a bad position by giving the opponent excellent field position—or as he did last week, a free touchdown.
Week 12 against New York could mean even more struggles for the Baltimore offense. For starters, the Jets have been completely dominant against the run this season.
They have best defense in the league in multiple categories. They allow only 73.2 rushing yards per game on a measly 2.9 yards per carry. ProFootballFocus has given them a run defense grade of plus-80.4, miles ahead of the second-place team—the Kansas City Chiefs are plus-48.9 (subscription required).
As a result, Baltimore will need to rely on Flacco to move the chains and put points on the board. More importantly, they Ravens will need him to take better care of the football.