Offensive Game Plan
1.) Running the ball in between the tackles: With Norman Hand likely to miss Sunday's game, and Michael Strahan placed on IR, the Giants have become extremely vulnerable against the run. Last week against Washington, the Giants yielded a total of 211 rushing yards, and an average of 4.7 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, the Ravens rushing attack showed shades of last year's dominance against the Bengals, churning out 192 yards per 31 attempts. The line play was coordinated and under control, especially on the left side, where Ogden and Mulitalo simply overpowered the Bengals' front seven last week.
Against the Giants, the Ravens have the chance to continue its dominant performance against the undersized front four of the Giants. Particularly, the Ravens should have success attacking tackles William Joseph and Fred Robbins up the middle. If both of these tackles are single blocked, that will allow center Mike Flynn and Alan Ricard to block the second level defenders, leading to longer gains for backs Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor.
2.) Passing the ball out of running sets: As has been the case against every defense the Ravens' offense has faced this season, one should expect to see the Giant safeties playing close to the line of scrimmage in order to help stop the Ravens' running game.
However, with the return of Todd Heap, and the emergence of Daniel Wilcox and Darnell Dinkins at the tight end position, the Ravens now have the ability to generate an efficient pass offense out of power formations. Specifically, with Heap's ability to beat any linebacker or safety that tries to cover him, the Ravens have the flexibility to pass the ball out of a two-tight end or I formation. Also, the Ravens can motion Heap all over the field, whether in the slot or on the outside.
Against the Giants, passing the ball out of predominant run formations is perhaps the best strategy to employ, because using the short passing game will allow the Ravens to control the clock and win the field position battle.
Defensive Game Plan
1.) Defending the spread offense: One would think that with a rookie quarterback, the Giants may play more of a conservative game against the Ravens' defense, hoping that its defense and sound running game can keep them in the game until the fourth quarter. However, it's also possible that the Giants liked what the Bengals did to attack the Ravens' defense a week ago, and will use the same formula to beat the Ravens on Sunday.
Obviously, there is a distinction between the two offenses. The Bengals have a superior offensive line and a more experienced quarterback in Carson Palmer who is on the upside of his young career. On the other hand, Eli Manning has completed less than 42% of his passes in his first three starts, and the Giants offensive line has been horrid in pass protection situations.
However, the Giants do have solid skill position players that can give the Ravens trouble. Tiki Barber is very effective running the ball out of one-back set, and is an adept receiver coming out of the backfield. Although Jeremy Shockey is having a down year, he is an explosive pass catching tight end that is tough to jam at the line of scrimmage, and is tough to tackle after the catch. Receivers Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard lack speed, but are reliable receivers that are tough to contain in the open field.
The Ravens have struggled to defend a spread offense (whether the run or the pass) at various times this season, especially over the last two weeks against the Patriots and the Bengals. With the return of Deion Sanders, the defense will be better equipped to defend the Giants' three-wide set. Sanders' return allows defensive coordinator Mike Nolan to line Gary Baxter on the inside, move Terrell Suggs in a down lineman position and take Ed Hartwell off the field in coverage situations.
2.) Blitzing up the middle: New York's offensive line played well at the beginning of the season, and was the main reason for the Giants' offensive success. That said, that same line has crumbled the last few weeks. Mainly, it has performed poorly as a pass-blocking unit.
The unit will not get much relief going against Baltimore's stealth pass rush, which can come at a quarterback from all sides. Look for defensive coordinator Mike Nolan to focus his attack on the interior and the right side of the Giants' line, which has been leaky all season long. Although Eli Manning is more athletic than his brother, he is still a pocket passer, and flushing him out of the pocket will be to the Ravens' advantage.
One-on-one Match-up to Watch: Jeremy Shockey versus Ed Reed
Since Eli Manning took over the reigns at quarterback from Kurt Warner, Jeremy Shockey has been more involved in the offense. Despite all of the nagging injuries and inconsistencies that have plagued Shockey throughout his career, he is still the Giants' top receiver, and one of the most dangerous pass-catching tight ends in the NFL. Shockey is tough to defend because he has the size to block away defenders from the ball, and he can gain extra yardage after catching the ball. In all likelihood, Ed Reed will not be isolated on Shockey, but he may have enough chances to defend him, especially on third down.
Reed is the leading candidate for defensive player of the year honors. At
times Reed gambles too much, and is caught out of position, but for the most
part, he knows how to locate the ball. Reed also has the speed to stay with any
Dev Panchwagh is one of several writers for RavensInsider.Com The biggest and best independant site for Ravens fans on the web.
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