A couple of familiar faces will return to M&T Bank Stadium this weekend, but straits are too dire for the Ravens to focus on getting reacquainted with New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and free safety Ed Reed. Their Jets are somehow ahead of the Ravens in the race for the AFC's final wild-card spot and the Ravens desperately need a win. My hunch is that they will get it with their best performance of the season.
1. ED REED WILL INTERCEPT ONE JOE FLACCO PASS:
Reed, the former Raven and future Hall-of-Famer, is now with this second team this season, but he is still looking to make his first interception. He was a non-factor in his time with the Houston Texans and he was rarely around the football in his Jets debut last Sunday. They used him as a single deep safety, but sometimes he was so far back it looked like he was lining up to field a punt. The Ravens have a ton of respect for what Reed has accomplished in his career, but I bet quarterback Joe Flacco will test him Sunday. Look for the bearded ballhawk to swoop in and pick him off once.
2. FLACCO WILL THROW FOR MORE THAN 300 YARDS:
One interception won't stop Flacco from having a big game against the Jets, who are uncharacteristically ranked 23rd in the league in pass defense. Ryan is as bold as ever, and he isn't afraid to send blitzers at the quarterback and leave his cornerbacks on an island. They have gotten marooned in recent weeks, though. Both Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner were beaten over the top for long touchdowns last week. The Ravens have not been clicking in the deep passing game, but look for them to connect a couple of times on Sunday as Flacco bounces back with a 300-yard performance.
3. GENO SMITH WILL COUGH UP THREE TURNOVERS:
Jets quarterback Geno Smith appears to have hit a wall in the second half of his rookie season. In last week's loss to the Buffalo Bills, Smith lost one fumble and threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, before getting benched. The Bills scored 17 points off his turnovers. Smith has now thrown 16 interceptions in 10 games and has lost four fumbles. I expect Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and the Ravens defense to pressure him into bad decisions, especially if the Jets fall behind. Don't be surprised if the rookie coughs up at least three more turnovers on Sunday.
4. THE RAVENS WILL ACTUALLY PLAY A FULL GAME:
Ten weeks into the season, the Ravens have yet to play a complete game, even in their four wins. In the first half of the season, the Ravens started slow in most of their games. But in the past couple of weeks, the Ravens have built double-digit leads in the first half of games only to blow those big cushions. For the first time Sunday, the Ravens will actually play a complete game and be the better team for all four quarters. They will probably struggle to run the ball against that stout Jets front, but they will have opportunities in the passing game, especially if the defense does its thing.