Harbaugh, Ravens prepare to face familiar foes vs. Jets
What: Jets (5-5) at Ravens (4-6)
Where: M & T Bank Stadium
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV: CBS (Ravens Postgame Live immediately following the game on CSN)
Five questions that need answering:
1. Will the Jets bring too much pressure for the Ravens and Joe Flacco to handle?
Flacco is having his worst season statistically, and getting pressure on the quarterback is the signature of a Rex Ryan defense. That could be a bad combination for the Ravens. Flacco knows firsthand what a Ryan defense can do, from Ryan’s time as a coordinator with the Ravens. “The year he was here, we put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks to play under duress and see if they can do it, or see if they’re going to buckle,” Flacco said. “I think it’s a pretty good philosophy when it comes to playing defense.” If Flacco has a big game, it’s hard to picture the Ravens losing. If he commits turnovers and gives away points like he did last weekend in Chicago, it could cost the Ravens big-time.
[RELATED: Ryan looking for his first victory over Ravens ]
2. How much does Ed Reed really have left, and can the Ravens do business attacking Reed and cornerback Antonio Cromartie?
The Jets have been vulnerable to the deep ball, and both Reed and Cromartie look like they have lost a step. Both can be playmakers, so attacking them can be dangerous. But you can believe Flacco will give Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones a chance for homerun balls in this game.
3. Can Ray Rice build on his last game?
A Rice supporter would say he’s back, after his 131-yard outburst against the Bears. A Rice skeptic would say that performance came against a poor run defense. Whatever Rice gets Sunday, he will earn, because the Jets have the top-ranked run defense in the NFL. A good game for Rice might mean running just well enough to keep the Jets honest. The more obvious passing situations the Ravens avoid, the better their chances.
[RELATED: Flacco knows time is getting short on Ravens ]
4. Which Geno Smith will show up?
Lately we have seen the bad Smith – one TD pass and nine interceptions over his last five games. If that mistake-prone Smith shows up Sunday, he might get benched in favor of Matt Simms. But there is also a good Smith - the one that defeated the Falcons on a Monday night in October, completing 16 of 20 passes for three touchdowns. Smith has a strong arm and he can make plays with this legs. The Ravens will try to pressure and confuse Smith, but they must be wary of his ability to escape the pocket. If Smith struggles early, his problems could snowball. But if he builds early confidence, he could become dangerous.
5. Who will get the edge on special teams?
The Ravens average 20.8 points per game, the Jets just 18.3. If it’s a low-scoring affair, field position and special teams will become even more important. This is the type of game that could turn on a special teams play, like a return or a blocked punt.