Ravens (6-3) @ Giants (8-1)
Our purple heroes head to the swamps of New Jersey this week to take on the defending Super Bowl Champs, the New York Football Giants. The G-Men look like they are playing even better at this point than they were all of last season. Worried?
First off, as we pointed out the other day, New York has had trouble with their AFC opponents so far in 2008. Secondly, yes, the Giants have an 8-1 record. But just as people love to hate on the Ravens for winning 6 games “against nobody,” the Giants, aside for wins in Philly and Pittsburgh, haven’t exactly had an 85′ Bears-filled schedule (victories over Seattle, San Francisco, St. Louis, a Brad Johnson-led Dallas, and a Washington team that couldn’t get out of its own way). The point isn’t to belittle their 8-1 resume; rather, it is to simply point out that beating an NFL team is beating an NFL team, and no win should be trivialized…well, unless its the Rams. We can trivialize that. And finally, the Ravens have everything to gain and not all that much to lose heading into this one. They have already racked up 3 consecutive road wins, and another one at the Meadowlands would just be icing on the cake. Worst case scenario: they are only 1 game back of the division lead after Sunday, with 4 of their 6 remaining games in the friendly confines of Charm City. The pressure is on the G-Men to defend their home turf, as they have the toughest schedule in the NFL down the stretch.
Did I say finally? Hmm, I feel like I’m forgetting something…Oh, of course! That last point wasn’t the final reason not to worry – this is:
The Ravens will win this game.
Yup, here at the Nest we might be a bit drunk on the purple kool-aid, but we are going out on a limb and predicting a purple victory on Sunday.
Now, the meat and potatoes:
This game has football pundits drooling, as the #1-ranked Giants rushing attack meets up with the #1-ranked Ravens rushing defense. Something has to give. The Ravens front 7 will have to keep New Yorks 3-headed backfield of Brandon Jacobs (806 yds), Derrick Ward (490 yds), and Ahmad Bradshaw (205 yds) in check and in front of them. Once the 6’4″ 260 lb Jacobs gets running free in the secondary, its pretty much lights out. Especially with the Ravens already depleted back there, the last thing we want to see is Bradshaw and Samari Rolle or Ed Reed crashing into each other. For the first time this season, the Ravens may actually miss Kelly Gregg. No disrespect to Justin Bannan, but he will have to really step it up this week. Some think that the Giants might try to beat that questionable Ravens secondary through the air from the get-go. We disagree. The Giants are a very good team, and good teams know who they are and don’t deviate from it just because of their opponent. They are a running team, and that is what they will set out to do. If the Ravens D steps up, halftime adjustments may be in order, but backs like Jacobs only get better as the game goes on. Eli Manning is certainly capable of carving up the Ravens, but he is also prone to relapses from time-to-time (as we saw in Cleveland – 196 yd, 3 INT). Asking him to go pass-happy against a very opportunistic Ravens defense would be the kind of playing-with-fire that Tom Coughlin is just not all that keen on in his old age.
Elisha is having a solid season, throwing 14 TD and only 6 INT, and he has only taken 11 sacks in 9 games (Joe Flacco, by comparison, has taken 17).
As we’re all aware, the Ravens counter with their own 3-headed monster at RB. Willis McGahee (463 yds), Le’Ron McClain (361 yds), and Ray Rice (356 yds) will have their work cut out for them as well, against a Giants D that allows less than 90 ground yards per contest. The outcome of this one will likely be determined by which 3-man backfield has the better day.
Throwing the ball, the Ravens have to be very careful. The G-Men, even without the retired Michael Strahan or the injured Osi Umenyiora, have still racked up 30 sacks. And Joe Flacco, for all his progress, still seems to have trouble knowing when to take a sack (picture his very near intentional grounding penalty in Houston last week). Justin Tuck, perhaps the new prototype for pass rushers in the NFL, has 8, and Mathias Kinwanuka has 6. Adam Terry, Willie Anderson, and Jared Gaither, who did a great job keeping Mario Williams off the stat sheet last weekend, will have their hands full all afternoon. Anderson, who injured his ankle Sunday, is expected to play. As is Derrick Mason, who separated his shoulder but returned to the field against the Texans. We finally saw Todd Heap come out of his shell last week with 2 touchdown catches, but don’t expect to see more of the same this week; Heap will be called upon repeatedly to help with that relentless Giants’ pass rush.
A slight nod goes to New York’s special teams in this one. The G-Men’s return and coverage units slightly outperform the Ravens on the year, but neither team has scored a return TD. The Giants’ kicker, John Carney, is 4 years Matt Stover’s senior, but he is 21/22 (3/3 from 40+) on the year, while Stover is a mediocre 12-16 (2/6). Sam Koch averages nearly 3 yards more per punt than Jeff Feagles, but Feagles has planted just as many inside the 20 (16) on 11 less tries (33 vs. 44).
We sure as hell have no luck with the other Manning, so why not pick on younger brother a bit? Let’s win this one and represent AFC North division leaders, who the Mannings are a collective 3-0 against this year.
After further analysis, are we still drunk on the kool-aid? As Sarah Palin would say, You Betcha! If we’re going to do this, we’re going all in…none of this “the Ravens will win by 2, but it could really go either way,” crap. F Dat.
Ravens 24 Giants 14
leave your predictions (and any requisite hating on mine) in the comments!