First and 10: Ten predictions for Ravens-Giants

First and 10: Ten predictions for Ravens-Giants
December 22, 2012, 11:00 pm
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1. The Ravens will not score on their opening drive.

The Ravens went more than 20 minutes without a first down last week against Denver, and obviously they have to move the ball better than that to be successful. But they have scored on their first possession just once in their past five games, and won't do that against the Giants.

2. Ray Rice will have 20 touches.

The Ray-Rice-touches issue surfaced again after another loss, as he finished with 12 carries for 38 yards against Denver. He also had three catches for just 3 yards. Rice's top backup, Bernard Pierce, did not practice all week (concussion), which should increase Rice's workload.

3. Anquan Boldin will have at least five catches.

Boldin is coming off one of his more frustrating games of the season against Denver. He was held without a catch for just the second time in his career and got flagged for unnecessary roughness. With Torrey Smith (concussion) questionable, Boldin's role will become more important.

4. Joe Flacco will be sacked less than three times.

The Ravens offensive line struggled last week, with Flacco frequently under the gun from the Broncos pass rush. He was sacked three times and hammered more often than that. The Giants have 32 sacks this season -- the same as the Ravens -- but might be without defensive end Justin Tuck (shoulder), and the Ravens know that they need to limit Flacco's exposure. Look for them to work rollouts, quick throws and other schemes to keep Flacco clean.

5. Flacco will not lose a fumble.

Turnovers have killed Flacco and the Ravens lately. Whether being strip-sacked from pressure on the edge, or losing the ball on a quarterback sneak, Flacco has had trouble holding on to the ball. He needs to be sharper against the Giants and he will be.

6. Ray Rice will get at least three third-down touches.

Frequently facing third-and-8 or more, the Ravens have usually failed to convert and rank 23rd in third-down conversion percentage at .354. Rice has stressed that one reason for his lack of touches at times has been the Ravens' inability to convert on third down. But curiously, they rarely look to him on third down. Isn't this the same guy who converted a fourth-and-29?

7. The Giants will win time of possession.

Nothing has hurt the Ravens offense more than its inability to stay on the field. The Ravens rank last in the league in time of possession (26:51) and face a Giants team that will try to establish the run, even though top back Ahmad Bradshaw (knee/foot) is questionable.

8. The Giants will hit a pass play of 30-plus yards.

Victor Cruz has no doubt watched one receiver after another get open on double moves against the Ravens secondary. He can fly, and the Ravens are going to have a hard time staying with him. Cruz was held to a season-low 15 receiving yards in the Giants' 34-0 loss to Atlanta last week, but he will be a factor.

9. Eli Manning will be intercepted.

For all the hand-wringing around Baltimore about Joe Flacco, Manning this season has thrown the same number of touchdowns (20) but five more interceptions (15) than Flacco. He is going to test the Ravens secondary, but the Ravens will come up with a pick.

10. Ravens 27, Giants 24

The Giants desperately need to win to stay in the playoff chase, while the Ravens have already clinched a playoff spot and just want to return to form before the playoffs begin. Week 2 of the Jim Caldwell-led offense will go more smoothly than Week 1 did -- could it go any worse? The Ravens have lost three in a row overall and two in a row at home, but they have never lost three straight at home in the John Harbaugh era. They won't do it this year either, as the Ravens escape with a win and clinch a home playoff game.