The Baltimore Ravens (2-1) welcome the New York Jets (2-1) to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland for the NFL’s Sunday Night Game of the Week as the Jet’s head coach Rex Ryan makes a return to Baltimore, in opposition to the defensive unit he helped build over a 10 year career as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. It was Ryan’s defense that led the Ravens to 3 consecutive defeats of the New York Jets, and after a grinding 10-9 victory last year in his first return as the Jets head coach, New York will seek its first win against Baltimore since 2001, and will look to improve upon a dismal 11 point scoring average in the last four meetings with the Ravens.
Defense may be the key to this match-up tonight, and one area of the New York Jets’ usually sterling defense that needs to be rectified immediately is their ability to stop the run, where they are ranked 31st in the league after 3 games, giving up 136.7 yards per game. With Baltimore averaging 127.7 yards on the ground via the tandem of Ray Rice and Ricky Williams behind big addition Vonta Leach at fullback, the Jets simply cannot afford another defensive showing like last week’s blowup against Oakland, where the D conceded 234 yards and 4 touchdowns in a 34-24 loss. Against a Baltimore offense that comes off its biggest offensive game in team history, the Jets will also have to contend with Joe Flacco’s building report with Anquan Boldin as his #1 target, as well as figuring out how to contain Ray Rice in the passing game as well as on the ground.
On the offensive side of the ball, the New York Jets will have Mark Sanchez starting with a broken nose, which didn’t seem to hamper him too much last week as he put up 369 yards and 2 TDs in the loss to Oakland. However Sanchez will find himself without 3-time Pro Bowler Nick Mangold underneath at center, which may put additional pressure on the Jets’ running game and pass protection schemes. Currently ranking 25th in the league at just 82 yards per contest, the Jets simply have to find a way to get lead back Shonn Greene going, as his current 3.3 yard per carry average isn’t going to cut it against the stout Ravens defensive unit. With Baltimore holding opposing runners to just 84 yards per game (6th in the league), the sledding may become very difficult either way against the Ray Lewis-led Ravens D, putting even more pressure on Mark Sanchez to be on point with wide-outs Dustin Keller, Santonio Holmes, and former Raven Derrick Mason.
Betting Lines for the Baltimore Ravens vs. New York Jets
Playing at home, Baltimore is the favorite at -250 odds at Intertops.eu Sportsbook. The Jets come in to the match-up as +210 underdogs, and will get 4.5 points on the spread at -110 odds, while Baltimore gives up those 4.5 points at the same odds. The over/under on today’s match-up stands at 43.5 points, which interestingly enough has never been reached between these two teams in their last 4 meetings dating back to 2004 (37 was the highest total, back on Nov. 14, 2004). With the way Baltimore dismantled the Pittsburgh Steelers vaunted defense in Week 1 at home 35-7, the Ravens show that no defense is safe from the improved Ravens offense. Coming off another blowout over the Rams, the Ravens have all the confidence to put up huge numbers in this game once more.
Our Pick to Win:
The New York Jets lack of run defense could be exposed once again today on the road against Baltimore. The Ravens, while slipping in Week 2 to the Tennessee Titans, will be eager to show that that performance was merely a fluke, and will be intent on pounding the Jets back to East Rutherford today they way they did to the Rams last week. Look for Joe Flacco to be the better QB, Ray Rice to be the better running back, and the Baltimore Ravens to simply surpass the Jets in offense en route to a 27-14 victory at home today.
Players to Watch, New York:
Shonn Greene, RB – As mentioned above, the 3.3 yards per carry this season simply isn’t cutting it. The once reasonably effective tandem of Greene and Tomlinson is simply not making any difference through three weeks, averaging a dismal 82 yards per game, and it is critical for the Jets this Sunday that they see both Greene and Tomlinson improve their yards per carry above 4.0 for this game if they are to stand any chance at winning.
Santonio Holmes, WR – 6, 3, 1. 70, 42, 19. Those are the receptions and yardage figures in the first three weeks for Holmes, who simply has to get more targets and more production this week as the Jets struggle to find running room against the Ravens. Though he’s a little banged up with a sore shoulder, look for Holmes to be included more in the passing game today in order to free up Dustin Keller, Mark Sanchez’ preferred target so far this season.
Players to Watch, Baltimore:
Ray Rice, RB – The double threat man Rice is not only running at a 5.6 yards per carry clip, he’s also tied for the lead in receptions (14), and continues to be a problem for any defense that plays against him. With the Jets struggling against the run, look for Rice to see a lot more carries than the 13.5 touches he’s averaging this season, with a possible 100-yard game not out of the question for him this Sunday.
Anquan Boldin, WR – Boldin has yet to see a game with big numbers, and today’s match-up against the Jets defensive secondary may again be tough to produce Pro Bowl stats. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie will look to contain Boldin, which may in turn free up newcomer WR Torrey Smith, but we’re looking to see a Boldin diving catch in the end zone before the day is done.