Before I begin let me make one thing perfectly clear, I have never played professional football, never coached professional football, and I didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn last night. What I am is an avid fan of football and these are just my opinions as such.
Gameplanning to attack the Jets Defense that was ranked number one in 2009 certainly looks to be no easy task. Starting with a defense that was already stellar, the Jets spent big in the off-season, adding the likes of Antonio Cromartie, Jason Taylor, Brodney Poole, and first round pick CB Kyle Wilson. As if that weren't enough the Jets also get the return of massive nose tackle Kris Jenkins who was a pro-bowler before missing last year with injury. In other words, conventional wisdom says this won't be easy. Look for the Ravens to attempt to test Revis early, as he has just returned to the team and the Ravens may want to test if he is in game shape. This may be in the form of a deep pass attempt or a stretch play ran right at him. If there is one area where the Jets defense has shown the tiniest of cracks in the preseason it is being beat on the blitz with quick dump off passes. As anyone who watches the Ravens with regularity knows the Ravens are pretty good at beating the blitz with a screen or other type of dump off pass using Ray Rice. This is also an effective method to help cover up the weakness on the right side of the line caused by the absence of Jared Gaither. I believe the Ravens will have some success using this method to get down into the Red Zone, however I don't see a lot of touchdowns being scored. Somewhere in the 21-27 range should be about right if everything goes the way it looks on paper. Saying that however assures that the Ravens will either manage to score 40 points or 0.
Establish rhythm early.
Offensive line needs to protect better than we have seen in the pre-season, especially in pass protection.
As cliche as it sounds Turnovers, this looks to be one of those games where the teams are evenly matched enough that the game will come down to who holds on to the ball better.
Although the Ravens task on Defense seems much simpler going up against a much less experienced Jet's offense, this is still a unit that in keeping with the trend for the Jets this off-season has added a few new big name parts. Probably the biggest acquisition, WR Santonio Holmes is thankfully for Ravens fans suspended for this game. Holmes has caused this Ravens defense fits over the years and it is a big boost to the depleted Baltimore secondary that he will be sitting this one out. Running Back Ladainian Tomlinson has quieted talk that he had lost a step or three by having a strong pre-season. Whether this holds true throughout a full 16 games remains to be seen but he should be running healthy and motivated for week 1. Look for the Jets to allow Mark Sanchez to attempt to attack the Ravens defense early in the game through the air. The Ravens struggled covering the middle of the field in the pre-season so look for the Jets to target Dustin Keller in the middle early. After a disappointing pre-season however, Sanchez may be on a bit of a short leash. Although clearly not in danger of being pulled from the game, if Sanchez struggles early look for the Jets to switch to an offense closely resembling last years. A heavy dose of Shonne Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson, with safe passes for Sanchez mixed in. To this end the play of late pre-season addition Josh Wilson. Regarded as a player the Ravens swindled from Seattle for a conditional fourth round pick. For better or worse, this acquisition follows the recent Ravens trend of taking players who were regarded as having high levels of talent before being drafted by bad teams, i.e. Fabian Washington, Dominique Foxworth. In all fairness to this much criticized secondary, the whole secondary hasn't been healthy long enough to see how this plan would work out. Braylon Edwards has been known to struggle with drops, but still has the physical talent to get deep and beat you if he manages to hold on to the ball. Ravens fans will recall their hearts stopping in their chest two years ago against Cleveland when Edwards was wide open for a touchdown and watched the ball go right through his hands. The Jets are going to have to try to run against what looks to be a very tough Baltimore defense in order to protect Mark Sanchez. The Baltimore pass rush looks slightly more potent than expected going into the off-season thanks to the revitalization of Terrell Suggs, who looks in shape and motivated after a lack luster season in 2009. Honestly I look for the Jets to struggle to move the ball in this one, I believe if they reach the endzone it will be due to a turnover or a busted coverage. For the Jets to be effective they have to be able to run the ball and I just don't see it happening. If the Jets have to throw even against this questionable secondary, I look for at least 2 picks. In all fairness this also goes for the Ravens offense as discussed above. It's not that I like the Ravens run defense more than the Jets run defense, it's that I like the Ravens running backs and offensive line more than the Jets. Predicting 13-16 points for the Jets.
Shut down the pass early, especially the middle of the field and the quick patterns. Someone's going to have to step up and cause a turnover early to set the tone for the entire secondary.
With Terrence Cody out keep an eye on Cory Redding, after a decline in production the Ravens grabbed the player who was formerly the highest played defensive lineman in the NFL similar to Trevor Price a few years ago. He seems to have found the fire again playing in this Ravens defense.
Less talked about than the corners is the situation with the Free Safety position, Ed Reed is out at least six weeks and Tom Zbikowski is being called upon to fill his shoes. I expect Zbikowski to get the start but don't be surprised to see Haruki Nakamura out there in a rotation at times. Both players have had strong pre-seasons and although neither can replace Ed Reed, I don't think he will be missed as much as feared, a consensus I'm surprisingly feeling from most Raven fans.
Bonus Fantasy Wild Guesses for this game:
I know the Jets run defense is great but the Ravens feed Rice the ball in so many creative ways I wouldn't be surprised to see him finish with over 100 total yards and he has that Chris Johnson like quality that he could always break a 30 or 40 yard play. Projection 16 Carries 56 Yards 5 Catches 64 Yards 1 TD.
The Ravens haven't been able to stop a tight end once all pre-season and while I feel the weakness won't be quite as glaring come the regular season I expect Keller to have a fairly decent game if you don't have a better option. Projection 7 Catches 82 Yards.
If you drafted Greene he is probably your number two back. Although his numbers won't be stellar he's probably worth a start because I see the Jets feeding him the ball most of the game. LT won't take as many touches as people think and Greene will get plenty of touches this game, so even though the yard per carry will be low, production will be there. Projection: 23 Carries 62 Yards 3 Catches 34 Yards.
Rushing yards in this game are going to be hard enough to come by for the starters let alone a number two running back. I don't see LT being a major factor unless the jets are in the red zone. Projection: 9 carries 28 Yards 2 Catches 27 Yards.
The opposite of Shonne Greene above, hopefully if you have Edwards you have better options, if not he should put up steady but far less than stellar numbers for a number 3 fantasy receiver. He does offer the upside that if there is a deep pass on a bad coverage it will likely go to him. Projection: 5 Catches 53 Yards.
Look Revis is back, I don't know at what percentage of football shape he's in but I'm not betting against the guy. He's the best in the business he doesn't need camp. Ravens fans will have to wait at least one or two more weeks for Anquan to break out. Projection: 3 catches 22 yards.
Final Score Prediction