The Jets will open against a Baltimore team set to welcome back its MVP quarterback
|Series vs. NYJ||9-2 BAL|
|Last Meeting||BAL 42, NYJ 21 (2019)|
|This Season||@ NYJ, 9/11, 1 p.m. ET, CBS|
— Lukas Weese (@Weesesports) September 26, 2021
What’s the Deal With The Ravens?
The consistent Ravens were a surprise playoff absence last season. They were relegated to spectators thanks to a six-game losing streak that closed out their first losing season since 2015.
Conventional wisdom suggests that the emptying of an injured reserve which resembled a Sunday starting lineup will thrust Baltimore back into contention. It’s not so simple for Lamar Jackson and Co, though. The team will have to dispose of the AFC North’s new top cats in Cincinnati.
Taking back the division crown became more difficult following the departure of Arizona-bound deep-ball target Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. That trade gave the Ravens a second first-round pick, where they drafted touted Iowa interior blocker Tyler Linderbaum to bolster Jackson’s security detail. The offensive line also welcomes Morgan Moses, who is expected to slide in as the primary right tackle after spending a serviceable season with the Jets.
Other primary draft capital was used on helping a defense that gave up a league-worst 6.0 yards per play last season, a blemish that cost defensive coordinator Wink Martindale his job. Three of the Ravens’ first four picks were used on defense, headlined by Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton at No. 14 overall. All-American David Ojabo (a pupil of head coach John Harbaugh’s brother at Michigan) and Connecticut standout Travis Jones arrived on day two in the second and third rounds, respectively.
The New York Jets beat the Ravens as the Meadowlands flooded?
A team known as the Baltimore Ravens first came to East Rutherford in November 1997 amidst a Garden State deluge. Field goals defined the day, with John Hall booting four alone, including the walk-off winner of a 19-16 overtime triumph for the Jets.
New York took the early lead on a 13-yard scoring hook-up between Fred Baxter and Neil O’Donnell before Hall and Matt Stover took matters into their own hands. Future Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde necessitated the extra session with a 16-yard scoring pass to Derrick Alexander in the final minute of regulation.
How to Beat Them
Lamar Jackson, UNREAL run. pic.twitter.com/2HTX36qAp3
— Ryan Glasspiegel (@sportsrapport) January 10, 2021
Eliminate Edwards, Deny Dobbins, Lock Up Lamar
For better or worse, the Ravens’ foreseeable fortunes are going to depend on Jackson. Somehow, the jury’s still out on the unanimous 2019 MVP who has faced the typical criticisms endlessly lobbied at mobile quarterbacks.
Though Jackson played little-to-no role in the Ravens’ late collapse last season, detractors have now targeted his health, as injuries ended some of his speedy predecessors’ runs as franchise passers (e.g., Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton).
While all eyes will be on Jackson, Baltimore’s rushing game as a whole has been their offensive bread and butter over the past few seasons. Those endeavors were cruelly interrupted when J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards were both lost before the first regular-season snap.
Jackson led the team in rushing despite his abbreviated season, while veterans from Sundays past (including former Jets washout Le’Veon Bell for five games) lingered behind him.
All three could be immediately called upon to take control of Baltimore’s offensive fortunes, as Brown’s departure leaves a big gap in the playmaking department. Mark Andrews has become one of the best and most reliable tight ends in football, but the top returning receiver is set to be Rashod Bateman.
Last season’s first-round rookie missed the first five games but earned 515 yards on 46 receptions over the remaining dozen. His production suffered upon Jackson’s injury, however, as he eclipsed 50 yards only twice over the final six games.
Behind Bateman on the receivers’ depth chart lies a hodgepodge of veteran reserves, including Devin Duvernay and James Proche.
Even if it takes the Ravens’ rushing triumvirate some time to get their land legs back, the Jets’ run defense was among the worst in football last season (29th) after allowing over 138 yards per game.
The secondary arrivals of D.J. Reed and Jordan Whitehead should help shore things up, but the team’s depth options will have to step up if they’re going to escape with a Week 1 victory.
JK DOBBINS 72 YARDS TO THE CRIB
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) January 3, 2021
Clip Their Wings
Some believe that the euphoria of a great offseason will come crashing down for the Jets once they make their way through a brutal schedule, which opens with an AFC North gauntlet. But when things open up at MetLife Stadium, all the pressure will be squarely upon the Ravens.
Baltimore will have something to prove and will be desperate to show that 2021 went off the rails only because of the injury bug. The visitors are thus placed in a bizarre situation in which they face a trap game in Week 1.
Jackson, Dobbins, and Edwards will have little time to get back into gameday shape: the Ravens likewise get a divisional foursome to open their season, as Miami, New England, and Buffalo await after they face the Jets. The Patriots and Bills are coming off playoff trips, while many plan to place the Dolphins in their preseason brackets.
It will thus be up to the Jets, bereft of a winning record since Week 1 in 2018, to take advantage of a team that could be warding off lingering doubts about itself. This is a group that hasn’t played at full strength in over a calendar year.
Of course, the Jets will likewise be playing with a group that’s still getting to know each other, as well. But they have a prime opportunity to earn a win against a team that’s finding itself, one with unproven fill-ins in the receiving corps, one full of rusty stars.
The fact this game is at home only sweetens the deal. If the Jets can pull out a victory in Week 1, they will force the rest of the league to take them seriously.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags