The New York Jets will be heavy underdogs this week against the Baltimore Ravens. But could Gang Green pull off the incredible upset?
The playoffs may have passed us by for yet another year, but hope springs for the New York Jets. It springs in the form of a 22-year-old gunslinger wearing the number 14. Through a series of impressive (and some not so) wins and losses, the Jets find themselves at 5-8.
Playoff contention was lost when Tennessee defeated the Colts on Sunday, but Jets fans need to step back and acknowledge the growth and fight which brought the lowly 1-7 Jets, with no hope whatsoever, to even being in talks of possible playoff contention come early December.
Following a game-winning field goal courtesy of Sam Ficken to send the Miami Dolphins back to the cellar of the AFC East, the Jets now set their sights on a Thursday night primetime matchup against the high-flying (and running) Baltimore Ravens squad.
First off, I want to make something clear to my fellow Jets nation: this game does mean something. It isn’t meaningless in the same sense that avoiding a season sweep by the Dolphins (who crushed the souls of Eagles fans last Sunday), somehow “messed up their position to draft.”
This is nonsense and here is why.
The 2020 draft will be important, yes. There isn’t any debating that, but to say that winning games is meaningless is to overlook the big picture and to brush away any positive takeaways whatsoever.
These are professional sports players who put in a myriad of hard work day in and day out to compete at the highest possible level. The progress, especially of players of a young core nucleus that is the Jets, is paramount for any future success.
The #Jets Zone w/ @BoyGreen25 feat @RichieBradz36, @Ebony_Bird:– Preview #NYJvsBAL.– Where did this version of Lamar Jackson (@Lj_era8) come from?– Why #RavensFlock vs #TakeFlight may be a closer game on #TNF than you think. #Ravens https://t.co/7fGNKmh4hR
— The Jets Zone (@TheJets_Zone) December 10, 2019
The last drive of the Miami game is a prime example. It was an important showcase and moment in young Sam Darnold‘s career in terms of what he can do when the game is on the line — when it’s crunch time and he needs to deliver.
Was it pretty? Absolutely not, but a win is a win, and other than taking a sack, Darnold stayed smart and remained cool, composed, and unphased.
These are takeaways many people may miss from just watching the highlights; they are signs of a young quarterback coming into his own, finding his rhythm and his confidence. This was the third game-winning drive of Darnold’s young career and every bit of experience in these situations is imperative.
Looking forward to Thursday night, the Ravens, led by second-year superstar Lamar Jackson, look to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Jackson, who surpassed 1,000+ rushing yards this season, is the front-runner for league MVP, as the green and white look to play spoiler the same way they did to Oakland two weeks prior.
On paper, this matchup (understandably) favors the Ravens immensely.
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And why would it not? The Ravens are a team built for deep playoff runs, with a long-tenured and experienced head coach, a great offensive line, and some pretty darn impressive play-calling on both sides of the ball.
The bottom line? It’s going to be a great test for Darnold, head coach Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Baltimore enters this matchup ranked first in rushing yards per game. The Jets stout rush defense ranks second. Jackson is a talented athlete who knows how to throw touchdowns, but also knows how to run and extend plays.
The Jets will need to be extremely physical up front and dominate the line of scrimmage in order for this game to be competitive. Gregg Williams and his depleted defense have actually done a really nice job the last month or so with his “next man up” mentality.
Players like Tarell Basham, Blessuan Austin, and Neville Hewitt are not exactly synonymous with elite defenders, but Williams has done a heck of a coaching job to get his guys playing at the level where they need to be in order to not only compete with some of the NFL’s elite offenses, but win against them.
The Jets run defense must find a way to stop, or at least limit, those explosively fast legs of Jackson. Expect exotic blitz packages and zone coverage to try to take away Baltimore’s strength on the ground, which means stopping running back Mark Ingram as well.
The Jets “bend but don’t break” defensive mentality will be paramount in keeping this a close one.
Like the Oakland game, this is going to be a battle in the trenches — one of intense physicality and discipline. If any team is up to the defensive challenge, it should be the Jets and their second-ranked run defense.
Baltimore enters this game holding many enviable statistics including most points per game (33.1) and rushing yards per game (200). Their defense is solid, as well, ranked ninth and sixth in allowed passing and rushing yards, respectively.
If the Jets are going to pull of a win, they need to not only win the one-on-one battles at the line of scrimmage, but they also need to flex a little offensive muscle. Coach Gase and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains must open up the playbook and look for guys like Robby Anderson to get involved.
Anderson had a great game against the Dolphins, scoring a touchdown and putting up an impressive 116 yards on the day, averaging 16.6 yards per catch. Anderson, simply said, needs to have a huge game against the Ravens using his blistering speed to beat Baltimore’s secondary, with the likes of cornerback Marcus Peters and company.
Powell is listed as questionable, but if he plays, it would be big if he posts the same kind of performance he had against the Dolphins, rushing for 70 yards and averaging nearly three and a half yards a carry.
That kind of downhill, power running will be crucial to wear down the linebackers and defensive front of Baltimore.
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Needless to say, New York’s offensive line must be up to the test up front giving either Bell, Powell, or Montgomery the time to find and exploit any holes or creases they can find. Whether or not the game plan will be to run the ball up the middle or more to the edges has yet to be seen.
Baltimore has some defensive veterans in the trenches and it remains to be seen which offensive line will show up Thursday night. Needless to say, the Jets will need all the time they give for No. 14 to work his magic and make the big plays needed to put up points.
This will be a great test for Gang Green and although eliminated from playoff contention, every game is still important as the coaching staff and players look to place themselves in the best possible way not only for the present, but for who will be a part of that future going forwards as a professional club.
Baltimore is no Cincinnati, but anything can happen on any given Sunday (or Thursday). The Cleveland Browns were able to pull off the ‘W’ against them, as were the Chiefs.
They are not unbeatable, but the Jets will truly need to play all around exceptional football, (the kind displayed against Oakland) to emerge victorious against a hot, run-heavy team like the Ravens.
There is always something to fight for. Always something to learn. Whether it be for a potential matchup in a year or two’s time, or for giving guys playing time to see what they can do if given the chance, there’s always progress to be made, lessons to take away.
This New York Jets team is a long way from where it was at 1-7, and with no serious expectations or pressure on their shoulders, they need to come out of that tunnel and well, simply said, “ball out.”
The Jets are a work in progress, and why can’t they work their way into beating the Ravens in yet another statement win? It remains to be seen, but on any given Sunday (or Thursday), anything can happen.
We’ve seen this. Keep your heads high, Jets faithful, and let’s ground these Ravens.