Florham Park, N.J. - After a miserable two-game road trip through Pittsburgh and Arizona, the new-look New York Jets (1-5) return to MetLife Stadium to host the Baltimore Ravens (3-3). Plenty of storylines have sparked throughout the week that has caused anticipation for Sunday's game. New York has suffered four consecutive losses in ugly fashion forcing head coach Todd Bowles to make several personnel changes around the field - naming Geno Smith the starting quarterback for Week Seven.
The Jets are 1-8 all-time against the Baltimore Ravens with the Ravens winning the previous eight games. You would have to travel back to November 2, 1997 to find a 19-16 New York victory in overtime at the Meadowlands. The last time these teams met in New Jersey was back in 2010 - the first regular season Jets game at MetLife Stadium - a 10-9 Ravens victory.
With the season slipping away, the Jets cannot afford more losses - especially to conference opponents who will eventually own tiebreakers by season's end. Both teams have had their struggles and injuries in 2016 and with Geno Smith and potentially Ryan Mallett under center, you can expect a game that may come down to the wire. Here's what to look out for:
WHEN: Sunday, October 23, 2016, 1 p.m. EST
WHERE: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Whether you like it or not, Geno Smith will be the starting quarterback for the New York Jets in Week Seven. After that - who knows? However, now is Smith's chance to prove critics wrong and play strong against a team that is third in total defense and first in rushing defense. The matchup is not favorable. It also means running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell could be non-factors, which will force Smith to throw the ball around the field more. If you are Geno Smith, you need to protect the football, make smart decisions and potentially use your legs. It will be Smith's first start since his 2014 Week 17 performance in Miami where he threw for 358 yards and three touchdowns compiling a perfect passer rating (158.3).
The Jets have gone from one of the best redzone teams in the NFL in 2015 - converting 66 percent of the time - to the worst redzone offense in the league in 2016 - converting a humbling 36 percent of the time. The turnovers in critical situations have crippled the team. Ryan Fitzpatrick's six interceptions from the opponent's 19-yard line to the endzone have not helped. But, the inability to finish drives with touchdowns instead of field goals has been particularly concerning. During the four-game skid, New York's first points in games have came via the field goal because of failures on third downs and in the redzone. In two of those occasions, the Jets offense has been held to just three points. It is time to finish drives. The first drive of Sunday's game will dictate how the rest of the game will go for the Jets. If they can find the endzone, fans could be in for a treat.
PASS RUSH RYAN (or Joe)
Baltimore may be without quarterback Joe Flacco, as he missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Flacco has been battling a right shoulder issue and typically does not miss practice. If he cannot go, the Ravens will attempt to trust Ryan Mallett who started two games for Baltimore in 2015 - throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions. Regardless of who is quarterback for the Ravens, the Jets will need to bottle up the pass rush they had against Carson Palmer Monday night and apply it Sunday. Although Palmer was not sacked, the Jets defensive line hurried and knocked down Arizona's signal caller more times than they have during their four-game losing streak. It will be important to pressure Mallett or the injured Flacco, which can produce turnovers - something the Jets defense needs.
DEFEND HOME TURF
There have been two home games at MetLife Stadium in 2016 - both ending in bitter disappointment. A struggling Ravens team comes to town with a middling offense and strong defense. It will be up to the Jets defense to defend the home turf and feed off an expected frustrated crowd's energy. New York's defense should be frustrated too. The big plays continued last week with David Johnson running marathons around the linemen, linebackers and secondary. While the communication on defense seemed to improve in Monday night's loss to the Cardinals, there is still a long road ahead before the Jets defense could be considered a threat. If the Jets can initiate one or two turnovers against the Ravens, they can come out on top. They may have an advantage as Baltimore may be without Flacco and Steve Smith. Then again, you cannot forget Mike Wallace. Many fans will be yelling: 'go for the football!' What do they have to lose?
X-FACTOR: GENO SMITH
Is there anyone else? The biggest news of the week was Todd Bowles naming Smith the starter for Sunday's game against the Ravens. Smith was 'antsy' to get in the game when Fitzpatrick struggled. Smith's body language showed on the sideline - he was frustrated. Now is his chance to take the frustration out on the field and manage the game. It will be interesting to see how Smith responds to the new pressure of being a starting quarterback once again.
PREDICTION: RAVENS 17-13
If Joe Flacco does not play, it will be two backup quarterbacks going head-to-head. Advantage, Jets. But, it will be a low-scoring affair at MetLife on Sunday. Defense will be key. Baltimore's defense is stronger than New York's this season and will cause Smith to force the ball around the field a little too much. Cue the 'Bryce Petty' chants. Playoff hopes get dimmer and dimmer.
Joe Barone is a staff writer for JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@28JoeBarone), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)null