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Considering the familial feel Sunday night’s game has, there are definite bragging rights on the line.
But there’s much more than that.
Even though it’s only Week 4, the primetime matchup is an early opportunity for the Ravens to get a head start on the AFC and secure two wins over playoff contenders before the bye.
Head Coach John Harbaugh preached that meaning to his team. This has future implications.
“All that stuff is really legit. It’s all real,” Harbaugh said of the meaning it carries since so many ex-Ravens will be across the ball.
“But, it is a conference game; it is a conference home game. It’s against a team that’s going to be in the playoffs. This game is going to matter at the end; it’s going to mean a lot. So, it means a lot, probably on every level.”
Last year, the Ravens scored a 10-9 victory over the Jets in Week 1. That victory was still looming large in Week 17.
Baltimore entered the final week of the regular season knowing that even if it lost to the Cincinnati Bengals and the Jets won their final game, the Ravens would still earn a playoff berth based off a head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Ravens have been in the postseason each of their three years under Harbaugh and the Jets have booked their ticket the past two years under Head Coach Rex Ryan.
The two teams have never met each other in the playoffs, but 2011 could be the year.
“They’ve been in the AFC Championship the last two years, they’re a dominant team in the postseason and late in the year,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “It’s early, but you plan on competing with them in the end of the year.”
3 Matchups To Watch
WR Torrey Smith vs. CB Antonio Cromartie
Smith burned the Rams’ Justin King for three touchdowns last Sunday, but the fast and fluid Cromartie will pose a tougher challenge. Cromartie, who has bruised ribs, talked a bit of smack this week, saying he wasn’t concerned about Smith after one big game. But Smith can outrun just about any cornerback – even a former Pro Bowler. Without Lee Evans, Smith will be relied on to continue to provide a deep threat.
CB Lardarius Webb vs. WR Santonio Holmes
Holmes has hurt the Ravens before, posting seven touchdowns in eight career games against Baltimore. He’s the Jets’ most explosive offensive weapon, but has gotten off to a bit of a slow start to the 2011 season. Webb, who is perhaps the Ravens’ fastest corner, could match up well with the playmaking wide receiver and has had a very strong start to the season.
FB Vonta Leach vs. LB Bart Scott
There could be quite a few big hits and heated exchanges between these two warriors. The pride of the Jets’ run defense is hurt by its No. 31 ranking in the NFL. The Ravens, who have run the ball well in the early part of the season, could take it right at or around New York, who struggled keeping containment of the edges against the Oakland Raiders.
3 Questions To Answer
Will the Ravens continue to throw it around?
Quarterback Joe Flacco attempted a career-high 48 passes against the St. Louis Rams and afterwards spoke about the importance of continuing to attack teams offensively. The Jets have been softer against the run so far this season and Baltimore is again without Evans at wideout. How will the Ravens attack?
Will the Jets continue to throw it around?
Like Flacco, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has also been letting it loose this season. He has already thrown more than 40 passes twice in 2011, contrary to New York’s usual “ground and pound” style. Sanchez passed for just 74 yards and completed 10 of 21 passes against the Ravens in their last meeting.
Can Torrey Smith Keep It Up?
A repeat performance may be asking too much, but it will be interesting to see how the rookie does in his second start and how the Jets react to the Ravens’ new vertical threat. Smith said he was glad to be done with all the buzz of last week, and is focusing on getting better week-to-week.
Total Offense – 389.0 (11)
Rush Offense – 127.7 (8)
Pass Offense – 261.3 (13)
Points Per Game – 28.3 (8)
Total Defense – 329.3 (13)
Rush Defense – 84.0 (6)
Pass Defense – 245.3 (17)
Points Per Game – 13.3 (1)
Total Offense – 360.7 (16)
Rush Offense – 82.0 (25)
Pass Offense – 278.7 (10)
Points Per Game – 27.7 (9)
Total Defense – 325.3 (11)
Rush Defense – 136.7 (31)
Pass Defense – 188.7 (6)
Points Per Game – 20.3 (12)