When the Ravens have the football
Keep an eye on how stubborn offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and head coach Brian Billick are at sticking with the running game. It's clear that this team isn't good at pass blocking and that quarterback Anthony Wright is playing inconsistently. A return to the I-formation and roughneck tactics of fullback Alan Ricard has been extremely popular this week at the training complex. Especially with featured back Jamal Lewis. Will it work? Perhaps, since the Jets do rank 24th against the run. They were stingy for most of the game against Jacksonville's Fred Taylor in last week's overtime loss. He needed a career-high 37 carries to rush for 98 yards and a touchdown. The point is, though, the strategy of being patient with the running game worked for a team with a far better quarterback situation with Byron Leftwich than Baltimore has. Even Leftwich avoided throwing at cornerback Ty Law. It would be wise of the Ravens to do the same. It's much easier to pick on cornerback David Barrett, which Leftwich did for the game-winning touchdown last week. Wright will likely follow a similar precept.
RB Jamal Lewis vs. LB Jonathan Vilma
The burly, 245-pound Lewis has the edge in size by about 15 pounds despite Vilma being two inches taller at 6-1, 230. What Vilma lacks in size, he makes up for with considerable speed and tenaciousness. He's often referred to as a smaller, younger Ray Lewis.
How the Ravens can win
1. Bottle up Curtis Martin, last year's NFL rushing leader, with extra
defenders at the line of scrimmage to essentially dare the Jets to throw. Martin
isn't off to a good start, averaging only 2.8 yards per carry. That represents
the second-worst three-game start of his 11-year career. The NFL's fourth
all-time leading rusher is the Jets' chief hope other than inserting venerable
2. Intimidate former third-string quarterback Brooks Bollinger into critical mistakes in his first start, forcing the Jets into a one-dimensional attack revolving around Martin and Derrick Blaylock's runs.
3. Establish the run with Jamal Lewis through improved blocking. Baltimore is 22-6, including the playoffs, when Lewis runs for 100 yards or more. He's extremely frustrated to rank 49th in the NFL in rushing, and it hasn't been all his fault. The offensive line has let him down.
When the Jets have the football
Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger is in a precarious spot. He has to build former third-string quarterback Brooks Bollinger's confidence, but can't do it at the Jets' expense. The Ravens will likely send a lot more blitz packages at Bollinger, and it's probable that safety Ed Reed will be involved. They will also try to bait Bollinger into unsafe throws by disguising coverages. He's a decent athlete, so pressure will have to be generated quickly. The Jets' offensive line isn't 100 percent healthy, either. Expect a more aggressive game plan from defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who appeared to play it too safe against veteran quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Steve McNair. They took what the Ravens gave them. Baltimore will try to dictate terms to Bollinger and, possibly, 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde if he gets in the game. The Jets will try to avoid these negative scenarios by running the football often with likely future Hall of Fame back Curtis Martin.
NG Maake Kemoeatu vs. C Kevin Mawae
People will pay a lot more attention to the high-profile matchup between Ray Lewis and Curtis Martin, but neither of those players can succeed without help from the trenches. Kemoeatu outweighs Mawae by 61 pounds, but the six-time Pro Bowl center has great upper body strength and is fast enough to pull and lead sweeps.
How the Jets can win
1. Run Curtis Martin up the middle right at middle linebacker Ray Lewis,
using six-time Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae's expertise and brawn. This strategy
worked a year ago for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
2. Bait quarterback Anthony Wright into a crucial miscue. He has already thrown two interceptions that have been returned for touchdowns and fumbled once while being sacked eight times. Will it be three games in a row with an interception?
3. Attack offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden wide off the edge with ultra-motivated, speedy defensive end John Abraham. In a contract year, Abraham has three sacks in three games. He registered 13 tackles, one sack, a forced fumble and two quarterback pressures last week.
In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
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