NFL Predictions Week 4: Can Ravens Hand Jets Another Loss?
The Ravens and Jets last did battle in Week 1 a year ago. The teams played a bruising game, with the Ravens coming out on top, 10-9. Now, the teams, two of the AFC's best, meet again this season in Week 4.
Both teams come into the showdown at 2-1. The Ravens two wins have come in dominating fashion. John Harbaugh's team beat the Steelers 35-7 and the Rams 37-7. Sandwiched between the wins is an ugly loss to the Titans.
This Week 4 clash will answer questions about both of these AFC heavyweights. Which Ravens team will show up? Can they show up two weeks in a row? Can the Jets stop the run? Will their rushing attack get untracked?
The Ravens come in riding the momentum of a 37-7 blowout. They can create even more momentum by taking down the Jets. Here are my predictions for the big matchup in Baltimore, all pointing to a Ravens victory.
Ray Rice Will Pick Up Right Where McFadden Left off
If you would have told me Darren McFadden would pick up 171 yards on the ground against the stout Jets defense, I would have called you crazy.
The Jets rushing defense is just too good, I would have argued. After last week's performance, I am beginning to reconsider that assessment.
The Jets run defense can be beaten by a physical attack. The Raiders came out and hit the Jets in the mouth. The Jets could not respond.
The Raiders offensive line bullied the Jets front seven. The Ravens offensive line, a question mark coming into the season has proved to be a strength. They will be able to give Ray Rice room to run.
Rice is every bit as good as McFadden. He is a physical running back who also contributes in the passing game. A year ago, the Jets held Rice to only 43 yards rushing. The Ravens still won the game. There is no way the Jets defense will shut down Ray Rice again.
Torrey Smith Will Continue Giving Defenses Headaches
Torrey Smith had been very unproductive heading into the Rams game. Ravens fans openly questioned whether the second round pick from Maryland would follow in the footsteps of Darius Heyward-Bey, another Maryland receiver with great speed who has been an NFL bust.
Smith quieted his doubters for at least a week following his explosion against the Rams. He had five catches for 152 yards and three touchdowns.
Going into the season, many believed it would be Lee Evans who would give the Ravens passing attack the vertical threat it needed. Evans has struggled to get untracked. Torrey Smith is ready to step up.
The Ravens offense has been very aggressive in the team's two victories. That trend must continue against the Jets.
The Jets have a very good secondary, but last year, Anquan Boldin gained 110 yards. That was without a viable deep threat to loosen up the secondary. Now, the Ravens have Smith to stretch the field.
The Jets pass defense excels by shutting down a team's number one receiver. Now, the Ravens have two number one receivers, Boldin and Smith.
Sanchez Will Make at Least One Drive Killing Mistake
Mark Sanchez has certainly made big strides this season. Questions remain about his ability to lead the Jets to victory if the running game remains stalled.
The Jets have not been able to run the ball effectively this season. Their backs are averaging only 3.4 yards per carry. Sanchez has been called on to carry the offense.
The third year quarterback has shown great improvement, but he has not faced a test as stern as the Ravens this season. Against defenses that do not hold a candle to the Ravens, Sanchez has already thrown four interceptions and taken nine sacks.
If the Jets are not able to run the ball, Sanchez will have to carry the offense on Sunday. He is not ready to do that against a defense as good as Baltimore's.
Jets Receivers Will Not Do Enough to Win
The Ravens are vulnerable through the air. Matt Hasselbeck proved that in the Titans surprising Week 2 win over the Ravens.
The Titans were able to win because the Ravens simply had no answer for Kenny Britt. Britt is one of the NFL's best receivers. The Jets receivers, on the other hand, are not good enough to beat the Ravens secondary.
Santonio Holmes got a huge contract during the offseason, but he has not earned it so far. He has only ten catches this season and has been hobbled by a quad injury. The Jets gamble on Plaxico Burress has also gone unrewarded.
LaDanian Tomlinson and Dustin Keller have been Mark Sanchez's favorite targets this season. Running backs and tight ends have not had as much success beating the Ravens pass defense. Ravens linebackers will shut down Mark Sanchez's top targets.
Holmes and Burress had better get ready to step up. The Jets will not be able to run the ball against the Ravens. No one else has even gotten close to cracking it this year. The onus will fall on Sanchez and the passing game to lead the Jets offense.
Without contributions from their headlining receivers, Mark Sanchez and the offense will stall.
The Ravens came out firing offensively in both of their victories. They were aggressive on offense from the get-go against Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Cam Cameron has opened the playbook this season, and must continue to do so.
Look for the Ravens to take a few deep shots with Torrey Smith. At least one of Flacco's bombs will reach the hands of Smith.
Ray Rice will continue his ascension to the top of NFL running back ranks. The Jets will not be able to shut him down like they did a year ago.
The Ravens will get off to a fast start offensively. If the Jets fall behind early, Mark Sanchez will be called on to lead the passing attack. I do not think he is ready to carry the offense in a shootout.
Final Prediction: Ravens 27 Jets 17
The Ravens offense is a new beast this year. Baltimore has never had an offense this potent. They will get their points against an overrated Jets defense. Mark Sanchez will keep the Jets offense in the game for a while, but look for him to make at least one back-breaking mistake.