Posts Tagged 'Matt Birk'

Week 1 Preview: Baltimore Ravens @ New York Jets

January 16, 2010…that was the last time the Ravens played a game that mattered. Seems like a long time ago huh? Well the wait is over, September 13th has finally arrived, and what a game we have tonight!

The Jets and Ravens are very similar teams. They both have the young quarterbacks with plenty of experienced weapons on offense. Defensively, both squads play good ol’ “smash mouth football”.

There has been quite a bit of talking leading up to this game, and it’s fun, but I’m not gonna address the jabber. I want to look at the types of games both teams need to play to come away with a win tonight.

First off, believe the hype, Darrelle Revis is the real deal. He is as good as advertised and has to ability to take a whole side of a field away from the opposition. That opens up options for the New York defense to blitz, especially with their safeties. And everyone knows Rex Ryan loves to blitz. He will be sending extra guys at Joe Flacco early and often to try to fluster the third year signal caller. On the other side of the field will be Antonio Cromartie, who is also a very skilled corner, not as talented as Revis. However he does have lightning fast speed. If he comes up with an interception, he is likely to take it to the house.

That being said, Revis can only cover one guy at a time, tonight that guy will be Anquan Boldin. Baltimore has plenty of other options to go to other than Boldin when airing it out. Flacco will have to spread the ball around to targets Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Ray Rice in the flat.

Speaking of Rice, I believe he is more dangerous on those flare passes and toss plays tonight. Do not expect much from him rushing up the middle. The Jets have a beast in Kris Jenkins at nose tackle. He can take up so much space and will be a challenge for center Matt Birk on first and second downs. Against a defense as physical and brutal as New York’s, getting backs Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain at least half a dozen carries each is crucial. Rice isn’t built to take such a pounding for four quarters.

On to the Jets and their offense. Mark Sanchez enjoyed a solid rookie campaign and is looking to continue his growth as an NFL quarterback. He has plenty of viable options at his disposal to help him win not only tonight but throughout 2010. The addition of future Hall of Famer Ladainian Tomlinson as well as 15-year veteran Tony Richardson adds depth, experience, and stability to a young corps of backs in Shonn Greene and John Conner. Receivers Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes are solid options who have great hands as well as breakaway speed. However, Holmes is out for tonight’s game. He is missing the first four games of the season due to a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy this past offseason. Jerricho Cotchery will have to step up and fill in his place tonight. Tight end Dustin Keller averaged just over 11½ yards per catch last year but only hauled in two TD’s. I like him to have a big 2010, watch out for him across the middle.

This leads to the one glaring weakness of the Ravens, their secondary. With Ed Reed on the PUP list for the first six weeks of the season, and Dominique Foxworth gone for the year, the Ravens are vulnerable and everyone knows it. Baltimore will have to work with Fabian Washington, Josh Wilson, and Chris Carr at corner. Lardarius Webb is listed as a game time decision, however I expect him to suit up and get plenty up snaps. Tom Zbikowski fills in for Reed at free safety, while Dawan Landry provides the most experience and talent of the group at strong safety.

There are lots of big names at the skill positions for both teams, and they very well could be the difference in the outcome of the game. But I believe it will all come down to who can dominate in the trenches, specifically when New York is on offense. I already mentioned earlier that Kris Jenkins will cause disruption in the middle of the Ravens line, but more importantly is if the Jets big men can hold up against a tough Baltimore front seven. If they can, it gives Sanchez the necessary time to pick apart the corners and safeties. A poor effort up front will lead to sacks, hurries, and in turn, poor decisions by the second year QB.

I believe nose tackle Haloti Ngata is a bit better than Jenkins due to his speed and athleticism. Remember last year in the preseason (against the Jets) when Ngata droped back into coverage like a linebacker and picked off Sanchez and took it to the house? Center Nick Mangold, fresh off signing an 8-year, $57.4 million contract, will have the tall task of blocking Ngata all game. And a great matchup I’m excited to watch will be left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson against a leaner and quicker Terrell Suggs.

So many storylines and matchups to digest in this one. Both teams have “super” aspirations if you know what I mean. Lots of questions will have been answered by the conclusion of this evening’s battle. Time for the prediction: I say the Ravens get off to a slower than expected start, and possibly fall behind. But the offense has too many weapons and will unleash its firepower in the 2nd half. The defense will bend but not break, and limit the Jets to field goals when backed aginst the wall. BALTIMORE 27 – NEW YORK 16

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Week 4 Game Preview: Baltimore Ravens (3-0) at New England Patriots (2-1)

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Game Info:

Kickoff: 1:05 p.m. (EDT)

Site: Gillette Stadium (68,756) • Foxborough, MA

TV: CBS

Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Phil Simms (color)

Fast Facts:

– The Patriots own the NFL’s best home record (55-19) since 2000, 1 game better than the Ravens (54-20).

– Baltimore has never beaten New England in four tries, including two losses at Foxborough by a combined score of 44-6.

– In the Ravens’ last 7 regular season road games, QB Joe Flacco has produced a 101.1 QB rating, the best figure in the NFL. In those contests, he has thrown for 11 TDs and just 3 INTs.

– The Ravens’ defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 38 straight regular season games. That is the NFL’s longest current streak.

Ravens Offense vs. Patriots Defense: The Patriots will once again be without Jerod Mayo, their extremely talented young linebacker. Mayo, who was named the 2008 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, sprained his MCL in the Patriots’ season opener. He is slated to return sometime before the end of this season. But not having him in the middle on Sunday is something the Ravens have to take advantage of by getting the ball to Todd Heap early and often. Baltimore’s Matt Birk did a stellar job last week of blocking big Shaun Rogers of the Browns. He faces another tough task this week in going against nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Wilfork reminds me a lot of the Ravens’ Kelly Gregg in that he has a motor that never stops and can give the offensive line fits. He will find his way into the backfield several times per game. Don’t expect Joe Flacco and Co. to put up the kind of numbers we’ve seen in the first 3 weeks. Taking care of the ball will be a priority as always. RB Willis McGahee leads the NFL with six touchdowns. He and Ray Rice have to establish the running game as a threat early in the game.

Patriots Offense vs. Ravens Defense: Where do I begin? QB Tom Brady is arguably the best quarterback of his era. Winning 3 Super Bowls in 4 years, he is the epitome of what you look for in a winning quarterback. He has a great arm and he can dissect opposing defenses. He has a terrific sense of the pass rush and always seems to get rid of the ball right before the pressure gets to him. However Brady’s accuracy has taken a dip so far in 2009. Since returning from knee surgery, Brady hasn’t looked as accurate as he has been is years past. His 79.9 QB Rating is well below his career average of 92.4. Baltimore will use their variety of disguised blitzes to try and disrupt his rhythm. Keep in mind it was only 2 weeks ago that Rex Ryan’s Jets gave Brady and the Pats’ offense fits with their defensive scheme. The Ravens are running the essentially the same defense as the Jets are. Look for that to be a factor. Wide receiver Randy Moss is tall, strong, and physical. He knows how to get into the best position possible to make all the big catches. But like Brady, Moss’s numbers could be better. He has 226 yards receiving, which is fifth best in the league. But he also has zero TD catches. What concerns me is how much trouble the Ravens’ secondary had defending Vincent Jackson and the rest of the Chargers receiving corps in Week 2. At 6-foot-4, Moss has a clear height advantage over the Ravens’ Fabian Washington and Dominique Foxworth (each 5-foot-11). I believe Moss is due for breakout game and will frustrate the Ravens’ corners all afternoon. The always dangerous Wes Welker is questionable for Sunday’s game with a knee injury. He is likely to be a game-time decision.

Prediction: The Ravens are very capable of winning this game. They proved last year against Tennessee in the playoffs that they could go on the road into a hostile environment and beat a tough team. It’s all about execution though. They need to play their game and limit the number of big plays they give up on defense. Flacco has been great on the road throughout his young career, but once again he faces a tough test on the road. Can he handle it? I see New England jumping out to an early lead and Baltimore playing catch-up the whole time. The Ravens defense will be on their game. But being aggressive will lead to a big play or two by Moss. It will be close, but this one goes to the Pats. PATRIOTS 26 – RAVENS 17.

Week 3 Game Preview: Cleveland Browns (0-2) at Baltimore Ravens (2-0)

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Game Info:

Kickoff: 1:05 p.m. (EDT)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium (71.008) · Baltimore, MD

TV: CBS

Announcers: Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Steve Tasker (color)

Fast Facts:

-Since 1999, Baltimore has allowed 18 100-yard rushing games. The Browns have allowed 18 100-yard rushing games over their last 32 games.

-Since 2003, the Ravens’ defense at home has ranked first in the NFL in yards allowed, points allowed and interceptions.

-Ravens wideout Derrick Mason needs just 3 catches to put him at 800 for his career, a mark which only 22 players in NFL history have hit.

– The Ravens have had at least 1 sack in 14 straight games.

-Free safety Ed Reed has 7 career interceptions against the Browns and has returned 3 of them for scores.

– The Browns are 3-7 in their previous 10 visits to M&T Bank Stadium. The last time Cleveland won in Baltimore was in 2007 in a game that will forever be remembered for Phil Dawson’s wild field goal at the end of regulation.

Josh Cribbs: I have never made a section in a game preview for just one player. But Browns return specialist Josh Cribbs is good enough to warrant his own preview. Consider these stats: From 2005-09, Cribbs is ranks first in the league in kickoff returns for touchdowns (five), and second in combined return touchdowns (seven). He also ranks second in kickoff return yards (5,707 for a 26.2-yard average). During last season’s Ravens-Browns game in Cleveland, Cribbs ran a kickoff back 92-yards for a score, and totaled 237 kickoff return yards and 41 yards on punts. He returned another kick for a TD in week 1 against Minnesota. The Ravens showed last week that their special team coverage has some holes as the Chargers’ Darren Sproles averaged 32 yards per kickoff return including a 52 yard burst that gave his team great field position.

Ravens Offense vs. Browns Defense: Last week the Ravens showed that their 501 yard outburst in week one was no fluke. In fact, Baltimore now ranks first in the AFC in yards per game (406) and points per game (34.5). On paper, this is as big of a mismatch as you will ever see. Defensively, the Browns rank all the way on the other end of the spectrum. Cleveland has given up an average of 30.5 points in their first two games. The offensive line has been VERY impressive so far in this young season. Jared Gaither held Shawne Merriman to one tackle and zero sacks last week. Center Matt Birk has the tough task of blocking Browns all-pro nose tackle Shaun Rogers. Rodgers is strong and takes up lots of space. He can disrupt the running game by closing holes before they even open. Said Birk, “He’s a great player. He combines power and quickness, and that’s rare in a big guy like that to be so explosive. That’s why he’s been a good player for so long in this league. He’s just a big, powerful guy. All you can do is get in there and try to battle.” The three headed monster of Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and Le’Ron McClain will once again give Baltimore fresh legs the throughout the game at the running back position. Joe Flacco has been solid in 2009, but has thrown a pick in each game. It will be interesting to see if he can avoid throwing one for the third straight week.

Browns Offense vs. Ravens Defense: Cleveland is having a great deal of trouble scoring points on the offensive side of the ball. They have scored just one offensive TD in their past 33 quarters! That is a stretch of just over 8 full games. Former Raven Jamal Lewis is questionable with a hamstring injury. If Lewis is unable to start, Jerome Harrison and fullback Lawrence Vickers (three combined rushing attempts in ’09) will get the bulk of the carries. As if going up against the NFL’s #1 rush defense wasn’t hard enough, doing so without your starting halfback makes it that much harder. Receiver Braylon Edwards has been very quiet through two games so far this year, hauling in only 7 receptions. But he could be due for a big game, especially against a Baltimore secondary that got lit up last Sunday in San Diego. But Edwards having a succesful day is largely dependent on whether or not quarterback Brady Quinn can play smart football and avoid costly turnovers. Since his debut last November, Quinn has started 5 games, thrown 3 touchdown passes, 4 interceptions, and won just one game. He will have to battle a tough pass rush from Ray Lewis and company as well as a loud M&T Bank Stadium crowd.

Prediction: These two teams are going in two very different directions. Baltimore is thinking Super Bowl and Cleveland is trying to establish a solid foundation with Quinn at quarterback and Eric Mangini as head coach. Take a look at the Baltimore Sun’s
staff predictions for this game. They all pretty much agree that this will be a lopsided affair. I disagree. The Browns have talent and will put up a good fight on Sunday. I would be shocked if they were to escape town with a win, but this will be much closer than a lot of people think. RAVENS 24 – BROWNS 13.


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