Sunday, November 16, 2008

How far have the Ravens come?

Today’s game against the Giants is a great barometer for the Ravens. Playing against the world champions on their home field in less than ideal conditions will indicate both how far they’ve come and how far they have to go.

Dialing back to the preseason, no one expected what the Ravens have delivered – not after watching an offensive line that seemed in tatters, a very unsettled quarterback situation, a questionable secondary with a plethora of injuries and a rookie head coach. To their individual and collective credit so far, they have delivered.

Now many of us have postseason expectations and today we will see if they have what it takes in ’08 or are they simply a steady and climbing work in progress that could be a postseason participant in ’09?

On the surface the Giants have few weaknesses. If they have an Achilles’ Heel, it is their secondary which at the moment is a bit banged up. Plus their vulnerabilities have been masked by an outstanding front seven and a creative defensive coordinator in Steve Spagnuolo. This will be Joe Flacco’s biggest challenge of the season, particularly if his go to guy Derrick Mason isn’t very effective due to his separate left shoulder.

While the Ravens are on defense, this is a clear and present case of strength against strength. The Giants’ 3 headed monster of Jacobs, Ward and Bradshaw in the backfield have averaged 5 ½ yards per carry. When asked about these backs, Ray Lewis had more to say about the gaping holes created by the Giants’ offensive front than he said about the proficiencies of the trio.

It’s an overused cliché but this game more so than any other the Ravens have played will be won and lost in the trenches. How the Ravens handle the offensive and defensive lines of the Giants will weigh heavily in the game’s outcome. This should be a classic heavyweight battle.

From my recliner, the keys to a Ravens victory are as follows:

1. Win first down on both sides of the ball. Offensively that means throwing on first down to set up the run and to open the playbook. Defensively, it means taking away the Giants strength – managing the clock and the game on the ground.

2. Keep Todd Heap involved. That will command attention for the linebackers and safeties and it will help to open up opportunities in the running game and outside the hash marks.

3. Bracket Plaxico Burress. This guy has to be ready to explode mentally. Think about this – Kareem McKenzie gets to play today despite his DUI on Thursday while Burress lost two paychecks for showing up late to a meeting after taking his kids to school. He could be taken out of this game mentally so it might be time to get physical with the spindly receiver.

4. Chris Chester and Ben Grubbs – Chester has played better this season but today he faces a formidable 4-3 defense. He needs to be physical. Grubbs has struggled in pass protection. If the Giants get pressure up the middle, this game could be over early.

5. K Steve Houschka: He made a difference last week and he’ll need to do the same this week. The Giants have a solid special teams unit and the Ravens will have to match their efficiency on the road. Field position will be critical as both teams battle the crosswinds of the Meadowlands.

Can the Ravens get it done? Yes. Will they? I don’t see it. I just think that there are too many things weighing against the Ravens: three consecutive road games; world champs; terrific front four taking on a nicked up offensive line; vulnerable secondary. I’m calling it 27-17 and you all know that I hope I’m dead wrong.


Harryos29 said...

Harry O 29 Nov 17th
A loss is a loss. At least we lost to the Super Bowl champs of 2009!!!
...I do not understand why the Ravens Defense lost their GAP control. On every GIANT run, it seemed as tho all 11 ravens ran and clumped (sp?) in the Middle of the field...with NO Defenders left to stop the wide runs.
... Joe Flacco did not lose this game; The Defesne lost it.
Bring on the IGGLES

Anonymous said...

No real surprise that we lost, only HOW we lost. Of all the days Ray could have picked to have a bad game...He was out of position on at least 3 or 4 big plays. Close...but no cigar.

And can we really expect to competete with the top teams with esseantially ONE recriver for Joe Flacco to throw to?

We came...we saw...we lost.