The Ravens secured a playoff spot by defeating the Buffalo Bills in a hard-fought game with a nail-biter finish. The 11-2 Ravens won’t just settle for a playoff berth though, Baltimore has the chance to win the AFC North division with a win on Thursday, and increase their lead for the much-coveted first-round bye. The only team blocking Baltimore’s path to their second division title in two years: the New York Jets. The 5-8 Jets are no football powerhouse, but the Ravens cannot discount them. The Jets have won four of their last five games, and young quarterback Sam Darnold is again showing signs of hope. The Ravens have a chance at clinching another playoff accolade but must first avoid the trap that is the New York Jets.
Jets Rush Defense vs Ravens Group of Three
No team in the National Football League has been able to quell the Ravens ground game, the mobile Lamar Jackson is simply too elusive and unpredictable to defend. The only way to slow this run game down is to counter the Ravens’ group of three, the three running backs that command the other, more predictable half, of the run game. The Jets’ second-ranked run defense that allows only 78.8 yards needs to find a way to keep this side of the rushing attack in check. Baltimore’s three backs, Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill, all have different traits that make them productive. Mark Ingram is the downhill runner that can make quick cuts, Gus Edwards is the bulldozer that plows through the line of scrimmage, and Justice Hill is the side-to-side speedster. The Jets have their work cut out for them, but if they can find a way to slow this piece of the Ravens offense, they will have a better chance to win.
Ravens Secondary vs Sam Darnold
The young Jets quarterback has performed well in recent weeks, but Sam Darnold still has yet to consistently perform at a high level. The Ravens defense may be Darnold’s biggest test so far this season. The revamped secondary has dominated opposing passing offenses, and the unit has skyrocketed Baltimore’s defensive stock. Darnold must find ways to pass into the second consisting of two of the best young cornerbacks, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, along with great veteran corners and safeties, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, and Earl Thomas. If Darnold doesn’t play his absolute best then the Jets have no chance at beating the Ravens.
Jets’ Floundering Rushing Attack vs Ravens Rush Defense
The Jets spent big money this offseason to acquire the former Pittsburgh Steelers running back, Le’Veon Bell, but as many big-splash free agent acquisitions work out, Bell has yet to. Bell has just 589 yards on the season, averaging just 3.2 yards per rush attempt. In order to beat the Baltimore Ravens, the New York Jets will need to establish a run game against the Ravens, but is it even possible for the 31st ranked rushing offense to explode in production against the Ravens sixth-best rush defense? There must be a surge in the Jets’ ground attack if New York wants to win, but it is very unlikely to happen.
Lamar Jackson is the frontrunner for the MVP award for a reason. He can lead the Ravens to victory with a big night on the ground and through the air.
The Ravens will look to diversify their rushing attack in order to keep the group of three healthy as the Ravens begin to prepare for the playoffs. Edwards may get more reps than usual and will be crucial to establishing the dominance of the Ravens run game against the Jets.
It feels as if each week, Matthew Judon gets better and better. Judon recorded 5 total tackles and 1.5 sacks against the Buffalo Bills. Matthew Judon will have a prime opportunity in primetime to put pressure on Sam Darnold, as the Jets’ quarterback has been sacked almost three times per game this year.
The New York Jets have no real chance to win this game, the Baltimore Ravens will clinch a second-consecutive AFC North title, and continue the pursuit of the first overall seed.