It is fair to say that both the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens are ready to turn the page. The Giants have lost 3 games in a row and could see their playoff hopes dwindle away if they drop this game and their division foes gain more ground.
On the other side of the coin, the Ravens began the year 3-0 before dropping their last 2 games in disappointing fashion, which cost Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman his job. The injury bug has also been a factor for these two teams, as they have had their stars miss many key early-season games.
The Giants and Ravens will duel on Sunday at 1:00 on CBS.
New York Giants: Offense
The one facet of the 2016 Giants that wasn’t supposed to be a problem has become one. The Giants’ offense has been all over the place in recent weeks, sputtering at key moments and never gaining momentum.
QB Eli Manning has had two straight clunkers, a rare funk for the reliable veteran. The running game has also stalled without starter Rashad Jennings, who may finally be coming back this week after missing 3 games with a thumb injury. Wideouts Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz need to find their early-season spark that fueled the Giants’ first two wins.
The offensive line hasn’t helped Manning either, often forcing him to play scared. If the O-Line can keep their penalties in check and limit third-and-long situations, the Giants can bounce back.
Baltimore Ravens: Offense
The Ravens have a very similar offensive attack to the Giants in philosophy. They pass over two-thirds of the time, often for short yardage and catch-and-run situations. Joe Flacco hasn’t had his best year so far, but at the same time it has been many years since he was elite anyway. Running backs Terrance West and Javorius Allen will see the bulk of the carries; they only have 1 collective touchdown on the year.
Top wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., left tackle Ronnie Stanley, and Pro Bowl right guard Marshall Yanda are all doubtful for Sunday, which could help out the Giants. Flacco will look to deep threat Mike Wallace and veteran Kamar Aiken, plus tight end Dennis Pitta in Smith’s place.
New York Giants: Defense
Surprisingly, the Giants’ defense hasn’t really been a problem so far for Big Blue. The pass rush has been ineffective and the linebackers have missed their share of tackles, but overall the defense is limiting scoring chances and has been solid in the red zone.
Facing a weak Ravens’ offensive line, the Giants could use a couple of sacks from Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, who are also playing banged-up. The linebackers will have to stop the run like they are capable of in order to force Flacco to pass. The Giants’ secondary has been a bright spot for the most part, and they also get a bit of a breather with the likely absence of Smith.
Given the way that the Giants’ offense has chickened out, the Giants need their defense to keep them in this game.
Baltimore Ravens: Defense
The Ravens have always been a team known for its strong defense, and this year is no different. However, the team will be missing top linebackers Elvis Dumervil and C.J. Mosley, which could expose the middle of the field. Rush linebacker Terrell Suggs is still a nuisance for opposing QBs, as is down lineman Timmy Jernigan. The secondary is led by veterans Shareece Wright, Jimmy Smith, LaDarius Webb, and Eric Weddle. The Ravens have already intercepted 6 passes, which is fifth-best in the NFL.
Eli Manning will face a lot of pressure from the Ravens, so it’ll be incumbent upon him to look to his wideouts on slants, curls, and crossing routes. If the Giants can finally figure out the Cover 2 defense, they’ll be in good shape.
New York Giants: Special Teams
The Giants showed improvement in the third phase of the game last week, with Josh Brown nailing all 3 field goals he attempted, Brad Wing consistently pinning the Packers deep, and Dwayne Harris running back returns deep. However, Harris is questionable for Sunday’s game with a toe injury.
Baltimore Ravens: Special Teams
The Ravens are one of the NFL’s top teams in terms of special teams. Kicker Justin Tucker is among the NFL’s best, punter Sam Koch has a big leg, and return man Devin Hester Sr. is the best return man ever. Hester will not play on Sunday though, which will force the Ravens to try a new return man against the Giants.
The Giants and Ravens are two pretty evenly-matched teams. They should probably both be better than they are right now, but ultimately they are what their record says they are: two .500 football teams.
I’m really just going on a hunch, but I think the Giants could squeak out a win on Sunday. They’ve only beat the Ravens once in five tries, including a Super Bowl loss, but I think the Giants can start a new era by winning on Sunday.
24-17 Giants (Record picking Giants games: 4-1)