The Ravens have never been a popular team outside of the Baltimore metropolitan area. Their bullying tactics on defense dating back to the 2000 season combined with Brian Billick’s cocksure ways and the sullied reputation of Ray Lewis prevented most fans across the nation from embracing the purple and black.
However, thanks to Rex Ryan’s big mouth, fans outside of the Big Apple just might be pulling for the Ravens on Monday Night.
Most think that Ryan’s familiarity with the Ravens’ personnel gives the Jets an advantage. The conventional thinking is that he is intimately aware of how to exploit the team’s weaknesses.
Ryan once commented that it would take 5 minutes for him to prepare his defense for the Ravens offense. But that is so yesterday.
The Jets now have to account for a confident and dynamic Ray Rice. Anquan Boldin wasn’t a Raven before and if Rex knows how to check him, he sure didn’t prove it back in 2007 when the Cardinals visited M&T Bank Stadium. On September 23rd of that season, Boldin racked up 14 catches for 181 yards and 2 scores.
Mix in a healthy and more seasoned Joe Flacco, a suddenly spry Todd Heap and his rookie TE compatriots and TJ Houshmandzadeh and suddenly Ryan might not know what to expect from the Ravens.
Perhaps the Ravens know more about what they’ll see from Ryan than the Jets know what they’ll see from Cam Cameron.
But even if this chess match proves to be a standoff, perhaps the more interesting battle is between the Jets offense and the Ravens defense. The Jets offense struggled mightily in the preseason and if one looks back to last year, the Mark Sanchez led unit was the 31st ranked passing offense. It would appear that Brian Shottenheimer’s offense might not have the tools to work a Ravens’ secondary that many believe is vulnerable, particularly without Ed Reed.
With that in mind here are my keys to a Ravens’ victory:
1. Play Clean: Referee Walt Anderson’s crew will work the game and last year it was his crew that threw yellow laundry all over Lambeau field when the Ravens lost to the Packers 27-14. The teams combined for 23 penalties good for 310 yards, second most in NFL history.
2. Prevent the Big Play: Greg Mattison should make sure that the Ravens secondary keeps things in front of them. The Jets are struggling offensively and it is doubtful that they can sustain long drives against the Ravens’ defense. Stay away from the big play from Braylon Edwards and the big pass interference penalty.
3. The Meadowlands Crowd: The Jets have had a difficult time selling tickets at Meadowlands Stadium because the PSL’s are exorbitant. Lower level tickets carry PSL’s that are as high as $25,000 and this has forced many fans into the upper deck and further away from the field. These prices have also forced many long time Jets’ maniacs to forego season tickets in this unsettling economy. So what does any of this have to do with the game on the field? A quieter crowd invites the no huddle.
4. No Huddle: The Ravens employed the no-huddle-offense for the entire first half during the seasonal dress rehearsal against the Giants in game 3 of the preseason. Joe Flacco gets into rhythm much faster in the no huddle plus it tires the opposing defensive line. That could help circumvent a potential weakness at right tackle as Oniel Cousins will likely get the start. You might recall that an Achilles’ heel of Ryan’s defenses has always been the no huddle. It doesn’t provide them the luxury of resetting their version of organized chaos after each play or making pre-snap adjustments. Then the defense becomes more basic and a basic Ryan defense is exactly what Cameron wants.
5. Make the Jets’ Corners Tackle: Darrelle Revis is rusty after just ending a prolonged holdout. Antonio Cromartie to tackling is like a vampire to daylight. The Ravens have to force the two to make tackles. It could affect the way they cover and make them susceptible to play action.
PREDICTION: Ravens 17, Jets 13 followed by a Rex Ryan snack.