They lead the league in fewest points allowed (14.1) and rank second in yards
per play (4.4). Their aggressive play often dictates games whether it's sacks
(23), interceptions (11) or forced fumbles (eight).
The Ravens acknowledge Carter possesses more speed than Pennington, but that won't keep them from chasing him down. Their fleet-footed defense was built to go after mobile quarterbacks like him.
"It ought to be fun to see how he is going to react to everything," safety Ed Reed said, "and how he is going to handle the quarterback situation."
The bigger difference between Carter and Pennington is the understanding of the Jets' west-coast offense.
Signed near the end of training camp, Carter likely will make more mistakes than the highly accurate Pennington. As the starter last season in Dallas, Carter threw 21 interceptions and had six games with multiple picks.
When quarterbacks make mistakes, the Ravens defense usually capitalizes on them. The Ravens have returned three interceptions and one fumble for touchdowns this season.
Turnovers have become the biggest determinant for victory for the Ravens. When they have forced more than one turnover, they are 5-0.
But the Ravens work to create those turnovers.
In their 3-4 defense, the Ravens usually just send four rushers. The key is finding where that fourth player is coming from. The Ravens often bring cornerbacks and safeties as often as linebackers.
It will be this same style that they will use to try to confuse Carter in his first start.
"There's nothing more dramatic in the NFL that you have to deal with than a change of quarterback, for whatever purpose, due to performance or due to injury," coach Brian Billick said. "That will be the test for New York. I'm sure they're up to the test. Before I start feeling too sorry for them, I'm going to take a peak at my training room. We're not going to spot them any points."
SERIES HISTORY -- Fourth meeting. The Ravens lead the all-time series, 2-1,
but the teams have not met since the 2000 season finale. That last meeting was
won by the Ravens, 34-20, in Baltimore, where Jermaine Lewis returned two punts
for touchdowns (54 and 89 yards) and cornerback Chris McAlister ran back an
interception 98 yards for a score.
--Ravens coach Brian Billick gave Jets running back Curtis Martin a compliment or sorts.
Asked if Martin ranks among the top running backs in the NFL, Billick said, "Jamie Martin doesn't get the due that he deserves. He's a class act. For whatever reason, he's not mentioned when you talk about the great backs in the league."
When told that he referred to him as Jamie and not Curtis, Billick laughed and said, "Jamie Martin is a class guy, too."
--The Ravens will go against one of their former coaches Sunday. Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson was the Ravens' secondary coach from 1999 to 2003.
"I still have his phone number," safety Ed Reed said. "Maybe I'll call him up and we'll go out to dinner. He's a friend for life."
--The Ravens are 2-2 on the road but haven't beaten a winning team away from home since 2001.
"Being able to take the crowd out of the game means you have to execute," running back Jamal Lewis said. "If you run it, you have to run it hard."
--In their last 16 1/2 quarters, the Ravens have produced more than twice as many turnovers (seven) as touchdowns (three). Over that span (which encompasses 49 drives), they have managed 50-plus yards on five series while being held without a first down on 18 of them.
"In high school, I threw the ball 50 times," quarterback Kyle Boller said. "Here it's about being accurate and keeping the offense out on the field. Ultimately, you want to score lots of touchdowns no matter how you play offense."
--Many league observers have anointed the Pittsburgh Steelers the best team in the NFL, but that is not something Billick is concerned with now.
The Steelers (7-1) remained two games ahead of the Ravens with a 27-3 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, their second victory over an undefeated opponent in as many weeks.
"I don't have to worry about it for another eight, seven weeks," Billick said of the rematch with the Steelers. "We already played them once, and I think we beat them if I remember correctly. Right now, it's all about the New York Jets."
--Sunday marked the end to the Ray Lewis-Terrell Owens feud.
Owens addressed his back-and-forth jabs with Lewis during his post-game news conference following the Eagles' loss, and Lewis expressed admiration for Owens in an ESPN interview later that night.
"I apologized to him the other night," Owens said. "I felt like I really should stand up here and I told him I owed it to him.
"Ray accepted my apology. I just felt like in my heart ... God is good and he intervened in that situation because it could have been a situation where Ray and I could have gone with a war of words throughout the summer, and it didn't happen like that."
--The Ravens are 4-2 against the AFC this season.
--The Ravens are 34-8 when they score 21 or more points.
--In his brief career, Terrell Suggs has had multiple sacks in six games. The Ravens have won every time.
--The Ravens have allowed just one 300-yard passer in their past 13 games.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Touchdowns scored by the Ravens secondary this season (Ed Reed has two and Chris McAlister and Deion Sanders each have one).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We continue to play to our profile, which is to play
outstanding defense, win the special teams and field position battles, run the
ball create turnovers and don't turn it over. That's what we are right now. It's
a formula that can succeed. It has succeeded." -- Coach Brian Billick in
evaluating his team at the midway point of the season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Ravens likely will go with Corey Fuller at nickel back because Deion Sanders (toe injury) probably will not play.
Unlike Sanders, Fuller doesn't have the speed to keep up with receivers especially on deep downfield routes. But Fuller is more physical and is better at making tackles.
Look for the Ravens to roll coverage over to his side on passing situations.
--QB Kyle Boller is 31st among NFL quarterbacks in rating (65.9) and 25th in the league in efficiency (57.7 percent).
--WR Travis Taylor has 13 catches in his last two games.
--LB Terrell Suggs can become the third-quickest player in NFL history to reach 20 sacks. He currently has 19 1/2 sacks in 24 career games.
--RB Jamal Lewis has carried the ball over 25 times only once this season.
--LB Ray Lewis has recorded 10 or more tackles in 16 straight games.
--SS Ed Reed has scored six touchdowns in 40 career games.
GAME PLAN: The Ravens will study how the Bills ran for 157 rushing yards
against the Jets last Sunday. Expect a heavy dose of Jamal Lewis especially
after he complained about not getting enough carries. The Ravens have made a
habit of committing turnovers on the road so they'll probably stick to a
conservative game plan.
Defensively, the Ravens will probably blitz against the run and the pass to fill the cutback lanes for Curtis Martin and force Quincy Carter into quick decisions. The focus will be on Martin. This season, the Ravens have allowed the second fewest yards per carry (3.5). They want to keep Carter in third-and-long situations.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Ravens center Casey Rabach vs. Jets middle linebacker
Jonathan Vilma: Rabach has taken over the starting center job because he filled
in so well for the once-injured Mike Flynn. Vilma, a rookie out of Miami, has
made 56 tackles, including a team-best 5 1/2 for losses.
Ravens left tackle Ethan Brooks vs. Jets end John Abraham: In his two starts for the injured Jonathan Ogden, Brooks held his opponents to four tackles, no sacks and less than a handful of hurries the past two games. Abraham leads the Jets with 8 1/2 sacks and 21 quarterback pressures.
Ravens safety Ed Reed vs. Jets quarterback Quincy Carter: Reed has 16 interceptions in 40 career games. Carter has thrown 36 interceptions in 17 career games.
--TE Todd Heap (sprained ankle) was declared out after not being able to practice for a second straight week. He will be replaced by Terry Jones for the seventh straight game.
--OT Jonathan Ogden (pulled hamstring) is listed as questionable but likely won't play. He is still walking with a slight limp and is not expected to practice. He will be replaced by Ethan Brooks.
--CB Deion Sanders (toe) is listed as questionable but is not expected to play. He had trouble walking in the locker room. He would be replaced by Corey Fuller.
NEW YORK JETS
With quarterback Chad Pennington down again, maybe for as long as a month with a strained right rotator cuff, the Jets are hoping their work thus far will keep them from losing too much of a beat with Quincy Carter filling in, starting with Sunday's 1 p.m. game against Baltimore at the Meadowlands.
"The important thing that we learned is having a guy come in and think he can run the offense in its entirety is foolish," said offensive coordinator Paul Hackett. "That doesn't happen. That didn't work."
Giving Vinny Testaverde just a handful of snaps in the preseason last year, the Jets and the veteran quarterback were thoroughly unprepared when Pennington went down with a fractured left wrist in the preseason finale. That led to a 2-5 start under Testaverde.
This year the Jets planned ahead. Even though Carter was signed in late August, three weeks after his release by Dallas, the Jets put him to work right away.
Carter has been practicing against the first-team defense for the last two months and has also had reps with the starting receivers sprinkled in. Hackett also designed a package of plays within the West Coast offense tailored to Carter's strengths - mobility and a strong arm - the day he arrived.
Carter has the ability to dart out of the pocket away from trouble, throwing off his back foot or across his body, to create something when there was nothing. Carter was a creative quarterback for the Cowboys, leading them to 10 wins and the playoffs last year.
While the Jets don't want Carter to lose the playground in him, they don't want him making the mistakes that led to 36 interceptions and him taking 68 sacks in Dallas in 31 starts either.
"As long as he doesn't make the obvious mistake, just trying to make a play so hard," coach Herman Edwards said. "Don't try to force anything. Just play. You don't have to make every play. You don't have to make every throw. Just play. Sometimes it's going to be a bad down. We need to accept the bad down and move on. We can't get into the turnover game."
What the Jets want now is to give him structure, one that stresses the importance of not turning the ball over to a Baltimore defense that has produced four scores - three interceptions and one fumble returned for a touchdown.
To get that mindset, Carter has been watching and absorbing Pennington carefully all season, watching him orchestrate a West Coast offense that has only been intercepted three times and lost four fumbles - the fewest turnovers in the AFC and tied for second fewest in the league.
"I've been watching No. 10 (Pennington) and I have a great example of someone who takes care of the football," Carter said. "The biggest thing that's I've (seen) No. 10 do is that you don't have to make a great play out of every play."
SERIES HISTORY - 4th meeting. Ravens lead series 2-1. The last time these
teams met they were going in different directions. Closing out the 2000 season,
the Jets traveled to Baltimore and fell 34-20. The loss capped a three-game
losing streak for the Jets that kept them out of the playoffs while the Ravens
finished the year with seven straight wins on their way to the postseason and an
eventual Super Bowl win.
Walking through the hallway of Weeb Eubank Hall, Jets LB Sam Cowart gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to coach Herman Edwards, signifying that he's ready to play after missing the last six games with a sprained knee.
There was however, no discussion of whether Cowart would be getting his starting job back now that rookie Jonathan Vilma has been playing so well.
"I leave that to Herm and (defensive coordinator) Donnie (Henderson)," Cowart said. "Vilma is going to be great linebacker in New York for years to come. I wasn't going to come back until I was comfortable with my leg."
Cowart still isn't at full strength and said it would likely be a few more weeks until he's in complete game shape.
--Despite the recent hiccup of 157 yards rushing allowed to the Bills last week, the Jets are ranked 11th against the run, allowing an average of 108.5 yards a game. A big reason for that is a much faster linebacking group. The Jets have tackled opposing running backs 28 times behind the line of scrimmage and have 15 tackles for no gain.
Rookie linebacker Jonathan Vilma and Eric Barton have combined or 10.5 tackles for a loss, totaling minus-20 yards.
The 17.3 points allowed per game is the fourth lowest mark in team history.
--With a 31-25 record, coach Herman Edwards has the third-highest winning percentage among Jets coaches (.554). Two straight wins would put him in second, passing AL Groh who was 9-7 (.563) in 2000.
--FB Jerald Sowell's 26 receptions are the most of any fullback in the NFL.
BY THE NUMBERS: 7 - Number of turnovers by the Jets, the lowest total in the AFC.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think we're a good football team. We have a chance to get
better, obviously, but we're a good football team. We're a young football team."
- coach Herman Edwards on how he judges his squad at the halfway point.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Obviously the biggest change will be Quincy Carter in at quarterback for the injured Chad Pennington (strained right rotator cuff). That will change the offensive game plan in that you may see even more of running back Curtis Martin. The Jets won't shut down the passing game but Carter may not prove as effective off the play-action as Pennington was. The Jets, however, will not be afraid to let the mobile Carter loose if he gets in trouble.
Expect the Jets safeties (Erik Coleman, Reggie Tongue and Jon McGraw - if healthy) to be involved in the run defense much more. The Jets have to stop Baltimore's Jamal Lewis and with the Ravens unlikely to air it out early, they can focus up front and take their chances on man coverage with corners Donnie Abraham and David Barrett.
MLB Sam Cowart will make his return this week and is expected to get about 10-15 plays, particularly when the Jets go to a 3-4.
--LB Sam Cowart is probable Sunday against the Ravens. Cowart has missed the last six games with a sprained knee but he'll come off the bench and get in on about 10-15 plays this week. Rookie Jonathan Vilma will remain the starter and will even be on the field with Cowart on some plays.
--DE Shaun Ellis remains questionable with a groin injury. Bryan Thomas would start in his absence with rookie Trevor Johnson getting some added time.
--FS Jon McGraw is still questionable with an abdominal pull, the same injury that kept him out of the season opener and limited him in the first few games. McGraw will be needed this week along with the rest of the Jets safeties as a major part of the run defense.
--CB Derrick Strait is probable for Sunday against the Ravens. If he plays he'll be in in the nickel and dime defenses.
--S Rashad Washington (foot) will miss Sunday's game against the Ravens. Newly signed Oliver Celestin will likely take his spot, playing straight man coverage in the dime.
GAME PLAN: With Quincy Carter at quarterback, the Jets won't take many
chances. They'll still throw the ball but stress to Carter not to turn it over.
Carter will also be told to run if the pocket starts collapsing but they don't
want him losing the football. The short passing game isn't Carter's strong suit
but will design an offense that will keep mistakes at a minimum.
The Jets defense will stack eight up front to shut down Jamal Lewis and the Ravens running game and take their chances against the erratic arm of Kyle Boller. The Ravens are dead last in the NFL in both the passing game and in overall offense.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Jets C Kevin Mawae vs. Ravens MLB Ray Lewis. The Jets must block Lewis out in order to get their running game going and Mawae is the best man for the job because he's one of the few centers quick enough in space to catch up to Lewis. If Mawae, who is having possibly his best year as a Jet, can't handle Lewis, the Jets won't be able to run up the middle at all or have much chance outside either because Lewis can run down anyone.
Jets MLB Jonathan Vilma vs. Ravens RB Jamal Lewis. Lewis is a pure cutback runner so he could prove tough against the rookie Vilma. The Ravens' offensive line has so much size that it can handle the Jets up front. The question is will Vilma make the right decisions in going after Lewis. A step in the wrong direction will have him behind on the play. Second-year LB Victor Hobson will have the same dilemma.
INJURY IMPACT: LB Sam Cowart told coaches this week that he's ready to return
after missing the last six weeks with a sprained knee and he will play, probably
getting in on 10-15 plays. He won't be 100 percent. ... DE Shaun Ellis remains
questionable with a groin injury. He didn't practice Wednesday, which is never a
good sign. ... CB Derrick Strait is listed as probable but he's missed the last
five weeks with a stress fracture in his right foot, so he may still be a week
away. ... FS Jon McGraw re-aggravated an abdominal pull that hampered him early
in the season and it may keep him out this week. He's questionable and there
probably won't be a decision on his availability until Friday.