Rice had a monster game last week, but he won't be able to replicate it against the best run defense in the league.
It will be a reunion of sorts when the Baltimore Ravens host the New York Jets. Former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and his newest acquisition, Ed Reed, come back to Baltimore with their hearts set on beating their former team. In an incredibly tight playoff race in the AFC, this game has huge implications for both teams' postseason chances.
As both sides prepare for what should be a defensive battle, here are three things that the Ravens need to be aware of when the action starts on Sunday.
Geno Smith’s Legs
Geno Smith hasn’t been passing the ball well in recent weeks, failing to get over 200 yards in the past three games. The Ravens will like their chances if they can shut down the run and force Smith to beat them with his arm, but they can’t forget about his legs.
Smith has the ability to extend plays and scramble to pick up chunks of yardage. The Ravens haven’t been burned by scrambling quarterbacks this year, but they have given up some crucial first downs by failing to contain quarterbacks like Andy Dalton, Jason Campbell and Ben Roethlisberger in the past month.
He’s scored three rushing touchdowns on the season, including this nine-yard scramble on a broken play against the New England Patriots.
Smith is flushed out of the pocket by the pass rush, and he extends the play by running toward the sideline. He’s looking to pass the entire way, but he takes off once he realizes that there is no throw to be made.
He makes a defender miss a tackle and gets all the way into the end zone, showing his speed and elusiveness.
Smith will have a difficult time racking up yardage through the air against a secondary that has looked phenomenal in the past two weeks, but the Ravens have to be wary of his ability to tuck and run.
The New York Jets have incorporated a fair amount of the Wildcat formation into their game plans, and the Ravens didn’t handle the Wildcat very well when they saw it against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
New York normally runs out of the formation and has had a number of big gains from it this year, like this 26-yard pickup by Mike Tolbert.
With Josh Cribbs, however, the Jets also have the option of passing out of the Wildcat as they did against the New Orleans Saints to pick up 25 yards.
The Ravens will need to be ready for the Wildcat as it will undoubtedly come up at least once in this week’s game. Last week, the Chicago Bears used end-arounds to surprise Baltimore’s defense on a couple of occasions, and that can’t happen in Week 12.
Geno Smith vs. Joe Flacco
The New York Jets are the league’s best rushing defense, allowing only 73 yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry. Their dominant defensive line starring Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson has shut down many rushing attacks this year.
Given the ineffectiveness of Baltimore’s ground game in every game that wasn’t against the Bears, it looks almost certain that Ray Rice won’t replicate his performance from Week 11.
On the other hand, the Baltimore Ravens aren’t too shabby against the run either. They’re giving up just over 100 yards per game, and they’ve looked much better in recent weeks.
Both teams will have to move the ball through the air, and so it will become a showdown between Joe Flacco and Geno Smith.
A matchup of the reigning Super Bowl MVP against a second-round pick shouldn’t be a close contest, but it might be if Flacco makes some bad decisions in crucial spots and turns the ball over.
He’s a much better player at M&T Bank Stadium, however, so he should be able to do enough to get the victory.
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The strength of the Jets pass rush combined with the weakness of their cornerbacks in coverage means that Joe Flacco needs to get the ball out quickly. The Ravens will spread out the defense and look to get their playmakers the ball in space against soft coverage.
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Expect the game to come down to the quarterbacks. Whichever one avoids mistakes will come out on top.