Pre-snap read: Ravens-Jets

October 02, 2011|By Matt Vensel

There’s a reason this family feud will again be fought in front of a nationally televised audience. As long as John Harbaugh and Rex Ryan, who were both candidates for the Ravens’ head coaching gig after the 2007 season, run the Ravens and the Jets, respectively, this rivalry will remain intense.

The former Ravens who followed Ryan to New York -- including a pair of outspoken Baltimore fan favorites in linebacker Bart Scott and wide receiver Derrick Mason -- add to the dynamic as well.

Plus, it also helps that these are two pretty good football teams looking to get back to the playoffs.

You know about the Harbaugh-Ryan storyline. Here are five others to follow Sunday night when the Ravens host the Jets at M&T Bank Stadium, a game that will be showcased on NBC:

1. Flacco faces another contemporary: Last week, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco outdueled Sam Bradford, the first overall pick in the 2010 draft. On Sunday night, he will trade drives with another one of the younger NFL quarterbacks he often gets compared and contrasted with: Mark Sanchez. Sanchez stacks up well with Flacco in terms of winning football games -- including postseason play -- but he is prone to making mistakes, having thrown more interceptions (37) than touchdowns (35) in his two-plus seasons. Turnovers could be the difference if this is a tight game, as expected.

2. Rice is ready for primetime: The Jets have uncharacteristically struggled to stamp out the run this season. They are now surrendering 136.7 rushing yards per game after the Raiders rumbled for 234 yards and four touchdowns in Week 3. One of those scoring runs was a 70-yard sprint by Darren McFadden, leaving the Jets to answer questions all week about the threat of Ravens star back Ray Rice busting out big plays against their suddenly porous run defense. Rice is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and he has two runs of 20-plus yards. Will he deliver another highlight-reel run Sunday?

3. Another test for the secondary: The Ravens are allowing nearly 250 passing yards per game, and they will face an interesting trio of Jets wideouts. Baltimore defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano called Santonio Holmes a "Raven killer" because of the damage done by Holmes when he was a member of the Steelers. Plaxico Burress is 34 but still 6-foot-5, and the Ravens struggle against taller receivers. Then there’s Mason. The former Ravens receiver is one of the best route-runners in the NFL, and if the Ravens give him a cushion, he’ll take those short catches all night.

4. Escape from Revis Island: Making his Ravens debut in the 2010 season opener, Anquan Boldin hauled in seven passes for 110 yards against the New York secondary, but Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis had missed most of the preseason due to a contract holdout. Ryan said this week that he was more worried about Boldin than Torrey Smith, who had three touchdowns in Week 3. I don’t think it’s posturing on Ryan’s part; Count on him clamping Revis on Boldin at the start of the game and forcing Flacco to looking for Smith and the team’s young receivers and tight ends.

5. Emotions will run high: The war of words was lackluster leading up to the game, but get ready for hard hits, trash talk and showmanship after the opening kickoff. It would be surprising if either of these teams wasn’t amped up for the Rex Ryan Bowl. Keeping their composure will be key for the Ravens, who must avoid the yellow flags and make sure their focus stays on the game plan.

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