Ray Rice has not been his usual self for the defending champion Ravens this season. Credit: Getty Images
After a disaster in Buffalo last week that might cost them a wild-card spot, the Jets are teetering in must-win mode and they face a difficult task in Baltimore. The Ravens have underwhelmed with a 4-6 record but they are still a formidable side at home, posting a 3-1 mark at M&T Bank Stadium.
This is a winnable game for the Jets on paper, but they will need to be flawless in their execution, particularly on offense.
The last time the Jets played in Baltimore was Week 4 during the 2011 season in a 34-17 drubbing.
Three things to watch for ...
1. As Always, It's About Geno
In the loss at the Bills, Smith had the worst game of his young professional career. He completed just 34.8 percent of his attempts, threw three interceptions (and no touchdowns) and had a blindside fumble where he failed to notice on the pressure. He showed little pocket presence and played scared, consistently making poor choices.
“I think the more you think about it, the worse you’ll do. The best thing for me to do is just wipe it out of my mind [and] just play with a clean slate,” Smith said. “I pretty much do that every week. I’m not out there thinking about what happened three or four weeks ago when I’m playing, but when you make mistakes over and over that can accumulate and we can start talking about where you were headed Week 3 and how you’re doing. You want to see progress. So in that area I just have to continue to work at it and I know it’s going to get better. That’s not my nature as a quarterback or player. I think it’s just a matter of me growing as a quarterback, so I just have to continue to get better and not worry about the mistakes I made in college.”
Thankfully for Smith, the Ravens aren't a tremendous pass defense. They're No. 13 in the league, allowing 237.2 passing yards per game. If he can limit mistakes, Smith can move the ball against this team.
2. Ground to a Halt
The trademark of Baltimore's offense has consistently been the ground game, led over the past few years by Rutgers product Ray Rice. But Rice has just 420 rushing yards on the season, on pace for the lowest total since his rookie season in 2008. The Jets have the league's top run defense, making this a matchup they must win.
“Ray had the hip-flexor injury the second week against Cleveland,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “Obviously that was a factor, but the problems are deeper than that, different than that and not something I really want to get into. But, we understand what they are.”
Keeping Rice and the entire Ravens backfield in check would make this a game quarterback Joe Flacco has to win in the air. That could be a good thing given Flacco's struggles this year.
3. Think about the Wildcat
Considering the Jets' struggles moving the ball the past few weeks, particularly in the air, it wouldn't be the worst thing to see more of the Wildcat this week to keep the Ravens defense off balance. The Wildcat took a pleasant turn for the Jets with the midseason signing of Josh Cribbs, who played quarterback at Kent State and owns several passing records for the program. Cribbs' ability to throw the ball accurately in addition to his speed and athleticism could be something the Jets exploit on Sunday to stretch Baltimore's defense. Don't be surprised to see a pass or two over the top to try to exploit the Ravens.