With the Jets at 5-5 and the Ravens at 4-6, this game has huge playoff ramifications. New York is tied for the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs with the Miami Dolphins after losing 37-14 to the Buffalo Bills last weekend. Baltimore is also coming off a loss, 23-20 in overtime to the Chicago Bears.
If New York wins, Baltimore will be two games back and loses the tiebreaker to the Jets, all but burying it for the season. If the Ravens come away victorious, they could pull into a tie for the final playoff slot depending on the outcome of the Carolina Panthers-Dolphins game.
Meet the Jets
New York has been one of the most inconsistent teams this season, in large part because of Geno Smith. Smith has thrown 16 interceptions compared to eight touchdowns while completing only 56.3 percent of his passes. In wins, Smith has seven touchdowns and four picks, against one touchdown and 12 interceptions in defeats.
In fairness, Smith does not have much help. Last year's second round pick, Stephen Hill, is on the verge of being benched by Rex Ryan. Hill has 23 catches for 340 yards but has continued to struggle with drops. Leading receiver Jeremy Kerley only has 347 yards and is currently hurt with an elbow injury.
Defensively, the front seven is one of the elite units in the NFL. The Jets rank first in the league against the run, allowing 73.2 yards per game. With Muhammad Wilkerson and rookie Sheldon Richardson along the defensive line, New York is very tough to handle. Add in David Harris and Quinton Coples from the linebacking core, and it's rough for any opponent.
Meet the Ravens
After getting a $120 million contract in the offseason, quarterback Joe Flacco has struggled. The former Delaware star has a 58.6 completion percentage. Worse than that, Flacco has tossed 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, unable to find his bearings with Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta in the fold.
Even more alarming is the complete disappearance of Ray Rice. Once one of the top running backs, Rice is averaging an absurd 3.0 yards per carry. Bernard Pierce, who was supposed to be a very solid sidekick, is even worse at 2.7 yards per attempt. Overall, the Ravens have a paltry 832 rushing yards.
Despite losing Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard and Paul Kruger, the defense has actually played very well. Baltimore is 13th against the pass and 11th versus the run. One of the reasons for continued success is the addition of Daryl Smith, a middle linebacker signed in the offseason. Smith leads the team with 86 tackles and two interceptions.
Local take: New York
Simply put, Smith is putting up better statistics and performances with a worse supporting cast. While Sanchez was asked to do very little and still put up awful numbers, Smith has been asked to do considerably more and he has put up far better numbers, along with a better record. Sanchez was carried by the best rushing attack in the league, while Smith has all too often been asked to put the team on his back.
Local take: Baltimore
Over at Baltimore Beatdown, Jason Butt writes about the Ravens' excellent field goal unit:
Take into account swirling winds, rain and mud, the likelihood of connecting on a field goal from long range gets even slimmer. Then again, not many teams have Justin Tucker kicking field goals for them. Nor do they have Morgan Cox snapping or Sam Koch holding.
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Helmet Stickers: New York Jets v Buffalo Bills http://t.co/gG9dAfp1Q0— Gang Green Nation (@GangGreenNation) November 20, 2013
In a game of major magnitude, it is tough to take a badly struggling rookie quarterback over a defending Super Bowl champ on the road. Flacco has not had a terrific season by any measure, but it stands to reason he will play better than Smith. New York has an excellent defense and will need to lean on it for any chance in this game. It might be asking too much.
Pick: Baltimore 20, New York 10
The Ravens are favored by four points at home over New York with an over/under of 40, per Oddsshark.com.
Baltimore hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving night, and New York welcomes the Dolphins into MetLife Stadium.