The Baltimore Ravens come into Monday night’s showdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars excited about the prospect of being the only game in town despite the general lack of success in such primetime situations throughout the relatively short history of the franchise.
The Ravens will certainly be the center of attention in the football world, at least for one night, and it’s their defense that’s causing a lot of buzz from people around the league.
That defense could get even stronger as the Ravens hope to get rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith back on the field for a limited number of repetitions, putting him on pace to be ready to go full-throttle against the Pittsburgh Steelers in two weeks. Chris Carr could also suit up, but it’s more likely he will return next week against Arizona.
While the Ravens face a team that has struggled this year behind a rookie quarterback, don’t expect any type of a letdown from them. The Ravens were already bitten by a letdown against the Tennessee Titans and it’s hard to see that happening again this season, especially in a primetime game.
Offensively, the Ravens want to run the ball to set up the play-action pass. The Jaguars actually had been one of the tougher run defenses in the league until last week when they let Rashard Mendenhall run all over them.
One of the biggest keys for the Ravens against Jacksonville will be their red-zone offense. It was absymal against the Houston Texans last week and is an area where they desperately need to improve if they want to reach the Super Bowl. It would help if the Ravens would be a little more imaginative with their play-calling once they get deep into the opponents’ territory.
Defensively, it’s all about stopping Maurice-Jones Drew. He can be a threat to go the distance either by taking a handoff or catching a pass. The Jaguars lack game-breakers at wideout position, so the Ravens can really hone in on Jones-Drew. They will also show Blaine Gabbert a lot of different looks, hoping to confuse him and force him to make bad decisions with the ball.
I don’t think the Ravens will just blow the Jaguars out of the water, but look for a win similar to last week’s over the Texans. The Ravens will methodically pound the Jaguars into submission with their physical style of football and really wear them down by the time the fourth quarter rolls around.