Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ravens-Giants Preview

The Baltimore Ravens have proven they are a good football team, entering Week 11 on a four-game winning streak including three straight on the road. Sunday's game gives Baltimore the opportunity to show they deserve to be mentioned in the NFL's elite.

Traveling to Giants Stadium to take on the Super Bowl champions will be a daunting task. Quarterback Joe Flacco will be pressured by the best front four in the NFL. The Giants' defense is so effective, because they do not have to blitz to pressure the quarterback, allowing the linebackers to drop into pass coverage. Look for the Ravens to use Ray Rice on draws and short passes out of the backfield to keep the linebackers close to the line of scrimmage.

This will be a classic case of each team trying to impose its will on the other as both pride themselves in running the ball and stopping the run. New York's top-ranked running game will be tested against the best run defense in the league. Brandon Jacobs brings a freakish combination of size (264 pounds) and speed, but the Baltimore defense never backs down from a challenge. Linebackers Ray Lewis and Bart Scott will have to keep an eye on Derrick Ward, a receiving threat out of the backfield.

This game will be decided by the quarterbacks where the Giants have the edge. The Ravens will contain the Giants' running game, but the secondary will have difficulty stopping Eli Manning and the Giants' passing game. Plaxico Burress presents a matchup problem, as cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Samari Rolle lack the height to defend the jumpball. The Ravens must find a way to pressure Manning, or he will gradually pick apart the secondary.

Flacco will have a difficult time finding open receivers while being pressured by defensive ends Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka. Having wide receiver Derrick Mason (dislocated shoulder) on the field would be a major boost, but he will be a game-time decision. Tight end Todd Heap will need to be involved in the passing game as he was last week against Houston. If the offensive line can give Flacco enough time, the Ravens will test the New York secondary with the deep ball.

Flacco has exceeded nearly everyone's expectations in his rookie season, and he will have to do it again for the Ravens to pull off the upset. The Ravens will bring a courageous effort, proving they belong in the playoff hunt, but will come up short at The Meadowlands.

The prediction: Giants 20-17

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