The first time the Ravens and the Jets played, the Ravens lost in New York, 19-16, on November 2, 1997.
Since then the Ravens have won all seven contests against the Jets and are favored (by 3.5 points) to win again this Sunday.
A win against the Jets would put the Ravens ahead of New York in the standings. They would each be 5-6 but the Ravens would then own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Considering the Jets are currently the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs, it’s safe to say this game is a must-win for the Ravens.
Baltimore has lost five of their last seven games by a total of 17 points. While you can say they aren’t far off, that really doesn’t amount to much. The fact remains the Ravens lost those games. Close doesn’t count.
I predict a physical game this Sunday, similar to Super Bowl XLVII. The coaches are familiar with each other. Baltimore could get out to an early lead against a team led by a young quarterback. But, then their opponent could very well storm back in the second half and force the game to be decided in the final minute.
Here are five ways the Ravens can win on Sunday and get firmly back into the playoff hunt.
1. Remind Geno Smith that he’s a rookie
Earlier this week, Terrell Suggs had this to say about Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith (via Jeff Zrebiec’s twitter page): “He’s definitely a quarterback with the potential to either win the game for them or give it away.”
Suggs is right. Smith has helped the Jets wins five of his first 10 NFL games. However, the Jets are 1-4 on the road in 2013. Until Smith comes into M&T Bank Stadium against a desperate Ravens team and wins, I won’t believe he’s able to do so.
2. Beat them up front
If you know Rex Ryan and his coaching style, you know that his players will be physical. The Jets are ranked 8th in rush offense (129.5 yards per game) and 1st in rush defense (73.2 yards per game).
If the Ravens want to get anywhere significant, in this game and in this season, they will have to win the battle along the offensive and defensive lines.
3. Put their offense in 3rd-and-long situations
Similar to the first point, if the Ravens are able to put Smith and the Jets in 3rd-and-long situations, they will force him to make all kinds of difficult decisions within a matter of seconds in front of a raucous crowd.
Though Smith has scored 11 touchdowns this season, he’s also turned the ball over 20 times, which obviously bodes well for Baltimore.
And if the Jets are consistently in 3rd-and-long situations, they won’t be able to utilize their biggest strength—the run game.
4. Win field position
In the 15 games that he’s returned kicks against the Ravens, Josh Cribbs has returned those kicks for an average of 24.4 yards. This year Cribbs boasts a kick return average of 24.9 yards. It’s safe to say Cribbs will consistently put the Jets in good field position to begin their drives.
One should also consider the fact that Cribbs is tied for 1st all-time with eight career kicks returned for a touchdown. If you make a mistake that costs you field position, especially when playing against a player like Cribbs, it won’t be something you can easily overcome.
5. Score touchdowns in the red zone
How many times have the Ravens wasted opportunities to take the lead in games and ended up losing? Too many.
Even if they got half of their six losses back, Baltimore would be looking at a 7-3 record and could be as high as the 2nd seed in the AFC playoffs right now. Instead, they’re in the 11th spot looking up at the Jets.
A direct way to drastically change your season for the better is to find gold in the red zone – touchdowns, not field goals.
Prediction: Ravens 26, Jets 20