Ravens-Jets: The three keys

Are the Eagles, the squad dubbed “The Dream Team” two months ago, really 1-3?

You’ve got to love the NFL.

The Ravens can boost their record to 3-1 heading into their bye week with a win over the Jets tonight, and if they’re able to top Rex Ryan’s bunch, they’d take over sole possession of first place in the AFC North.

Here are three keys to tonight’s game from Baltimore’s perspective:

1. Big guys must help the DBs

Here’s a recap of the Ravens’ situation in the secondary right now: Jimmy Smith is still out with an ankle injury, Haruki Nakamura will sit because of a knee injury, Domonique Foxworth is on injured reserve and Chris Carr is questionable for tonight’s game because of a lingering hamstring issue. That leaves Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams, Danny Gorrer and Chykie Brown as the Ravens’ four healthy cornerbacks.

You can’t love that group against any wide receiving corps, but the Jets have a strong compliment of pass catching threats in Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason and Dustin Keller. If the Ravens’ front-seven can’t get pressure on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, it could be a long day for the Baltimore DBs.

2. Work the tight ends

When you match up the Ravens’ wide receivers against the Jets’ cornerbacks, you have to give an edge to the guys in green and white. Darrelle Revis vs. Anquan Boldin? Well, Revis might be the best corner in the league, so he gets the nod. Antonio Cromartie vs. Torrey Smith? I’d take the six-year vet over the rookie. Baltimore might not be able to count on too much out of their wideouts given the competition, so it will be crucial that they get contributions from tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.

Running back Ray Rice could be huge in the short passing game, as well, but the Ravens could find some success if Dickson and Pitta can work the middle of the field and take advantage of matchups against the Jets’ linebackers.

3. Come out of the gates clicking

In the Ravens’ two wins this season, they’ve scored a combined 35 points in the first quarter, and have gotten out to two early, large leads. In Baltimore’s lone loss of the season, they didn’t score any first quarter points, and had trouble getting into an offensive rhythm. It’d be unreasonable to expect another 21-point first quarter like we saw last week, but the Ravens can obviously put themselves in a good spot by jumping on top early.

Early deficits can force teams to adjust their play-calling and get more aggressive, and that often benefits a playmaking, opportunistic defense. If the Ravens can come out of the gates in a zone and put up some early points, Sanchez could get a little reckless and wind up making some mistakes.

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