Scouting Report

Ravens Vs. Giants

Nfl Preview

M&t Bank Stadium, 1 P.m., Ch. 45

December 12, 2004|By JAMISON HENSLEY

Ravens run offense vs. Giants run defense: This is where the Ravens can inflict serious damage if their offensive line gets the same push as last week. For the second straight game, the Ravens will look to exploit a run defense that ranks in the bottom quarter of the NFL. The Giants have given up 201, 152 and 211 rushing yard the past three weeks. Jamal Lewis is expected to play a minimal role because of his sprained ankle, so the Ravens likely will rely on Chester Taylor, who has averaged 91.7 yards in four starts. Look for the Ravens to run to the left side, where All-Pro tackle Jonathan Ogden lines up against second-year end Osi Umenyiora.

EDGE: RAVENS

Ravens pass offense vs. Giants pass defense: The Giants have the NFL's No. 5 pass defense, a ranking skewed by the fact that teams don't have to throw because they run the ball so well against New York. But Giants cornerbacks Will Allen and Will Peterson are sound and could clamp down on a Ravens receiving corps that has had trouble with drops recently. This secondary, though, won't make game-changing plays, going five straight games without an interception. Quarterback Kyle Boller has never been able to consistently stretch the field and has just two completions of more than 20 yards the past two games. Maybe the improving health of tight end Todd Heap will change that.

EDGE: GIANTS

Giants run offense vs. Ravens run defense: New York ideally would want to give a bunch of carries to running back Tiki Barber to take the pressure off rookie quarterback Eli Manning. But Barber, who lacks size and lower-body strength, and a paper-thin offensive line don't physically match up against the Ravens' front seven. The Ravens' struggles in run defense have come against teams that neutralize their linebackers' range and pound the ball in between the tackles. The Ravens, who rank second in the league for lowest per-carry average given up, have not allowed a team to average more than 4.1 yards a carry the past three games.

EDGE: RAVENS

Giants pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense: The Ravens are vulnerable in their secondary, with starting cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Gary Baxter battling shoulder injuries. But this is a defensive backfield bent on redeeming itself from last week's fourth-quarter meltdown. That's bad news for Manning, who has completed just 42.1 percent of his throws in his first three NFL starts. Expect a variety of blitzes to capitalize on a New York line that has allowed 47 sacks, which is second most in the league. Starting receivers Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard have no touchdowns on 82 combined catches.

EDGE: RAVENS

Special teams: Ravens return specialist B.J. Sams has gone from a weapon to a concern, with two lost fumbles in four games. Their punter, Dave Zastudil, returns just four weeks removed from a separated shoulder. New York's Jeff Feagles has placed an NFL-record 428 punts inside the 20-yard line in his career. Where the Ravens have a substantial advantage is at kicker. Matt Stover has made 22 of 23 field-goal attempts, including 14 straight. The Giants' Steve Christie is 16-for-22, missing five times between 30 and 49 yards.

EDGE: EVEN

Intangibles: A two-game losing streak has put the Ravens in a foul mood. Beating New York is a necessity in the Ravens' pursuit of a wild-card berth. By choosing to start Manning at quarterback, the Giants are looking toward the future rather than the miserable present. The Giants have fallen apart during their five-game losing streak, getting routed by a total of 45 points the past two weeks. Their 31-7 loss to Washington a week ago ended the Redskins' three-game skid.

EDGE: RAVENS

Prediction: The Giants have been the perfect remedy for ailing teams. Just ask the Redskins.

RAVENS, 24-3 - - Jamison Hensley

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