RAVENS PASSING GAME: Quarterback Joe Flacco acknowledged this week that he's annoyed by his 13 interceptions and knows that he needs to play better. He ranks 14th in the NFL in passing yards, 19th in touchdown passes and 26th in completion percentage. While he's using his legs more to get out of the pocket, he's still making too many costly mistakes. The Ravens need to create more plays down the field and find another receiver to take pressure off top target Torrey Smith.
JETS PASSING GAME: Quarterback Geno Smith has shown some signs of regression lately, throwing eight interceptions over his last five games and completing just 16-of-42 passes over his past two. That has led to some speculation that backup Matt Simms could see some action against the Ravens. It certainly would help Smith if he got better pass protection (he's been sacked 36 times) and more production out of his wide receivers. Second-year receiver Stephen Hill has had his role decreased.
RAVENS RUNNING GAME: What they had long predicted finally occurred against the Chicago Bears last week with the Ravens rushing for a season-high 174 yards on 41 carries. Ray Rice had 131 of those yards to go along with a touchdown. The Ravens would like to see more north-south running from backup Bernard Pierce who has 82 yards on 36 carries over his past five games. Center Gino Gradkowski and guards Marshal Yanda and A.Q. Shipley will be tested against one of the best defensive interiors in the NFL.
JETS RUNNING GAME: Former New Orleans Saints running back Chris Ivory has been a bit of a revelation for the Jets, rushing for 100 yards or more in two of his last four games and averaging 88 yards per game during that span. That leads AFC running backs. Between Ivory, Bilal Powell and Smith, who also can make plays with his legs, the Jets are averaging 129.5 yards per game on the ground. That's the eighth best total in the NFL.
RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: After allowing 104 rushing yards last week, the Ravens dropped to 11th in the league against the run. Chicago ran a lot of misdirection against the Ravens, capitalizing on rush linebacker Terrell Suggs cheating inside. However, the Ravens remained stout in the red zone, holding a sixth straight opponent without a rushing touchdown. Nose tackle Haloti Ngata's absence has forced Terrence Cody and DeAngelo Tyson into bigger roles.
JETS RUSH DEFENSE: Easily the strength of the team, the Jets' defensive line has been absolutely dominant. The Jets have allowed an average of 73.2 yards per game on the ground, the lowest total in the league. They also lead the league in rushing average against (2.9 yards per carry) and fewest runs of 10 or more yards (14). Inside linebackers David Harris and Demario Davis lead the team in tackles, but the anchors of the defense are end Muhammad Wilkerson and tackle Sheldon Richardson.
RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: The continued improvement of the Ravens' secondary coincided with the disappearance of the team's pass rush last week. The Ravens had just two sacks last week and Suggs, who has a team-leading nine, has been held without one for two straight weeks. For the season, the Ravens have allowed 237.2 passing yards per game, which ranks 13th in the NFL. While the coverage has improved, the Ravens have just seven interceptions. Only seven teams have fewer.
JETS PASS DEFENSE: Sick of watching long touchdown passes go over the head of their defensive backs, the Jets signed former Ravens safety Ed Reed last week after his release from the Houston Texans. The Jets have surrendered 33 pass plays of 20 yards or more including four in last week's loss to the Buffalo Bills, two of them going for touchdowns. Rookie cornerback Dee Milliner has struggled and aside from one eight-sack game, the Jets have struggled to get to the quarterback.
RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: The Ravens are still waiting for Pro Bowl return man Jacoby Jones to make a big play on special teams as he's averaging 23.7 yards per kickoff return, which ranks 13th in the NFL. Against the Bears last week, Jones, Tandon Doss and Lardarius Webb were all used on punt returns. Kicker Justin Tucker has made 18 straight field goals , the second longest current streak in the NFL behind the New England Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski, who has hit 19 in a row.
JETS SPECIAL TEAMS: Veteran kicker Nick Folk won a kicking competition in training camp and has rewarded his organization's faith, connecting on 23 of 24 field goals this season, including 12 from 40 yards and beyond. Folk had made 23 straight before missing in windy Buffalo last week. In-season signing Joshua Cribbs has yet to make a big impact in the return game. Nick Bellore leads the Jets with 19 special teams tackles though their kick coverage has been mediocre at best.
RAVENS INTANGIBLES: With a 4-6 record, the Ravens' playoff hopes essentially hinge on their ability to defend what has been one of the NFL's best home-field advantages over the past six years. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens are 36-8 at home, including a 9-1 mark in November at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens have won seven straight games against the Jets. With a minus five turnover ratio and 71 penalties, the Ravens continue to be their own worst enemy.
JETS INTANGIBLES: Coach Rex Ryan said it best this week when he described his team as "wildly inconsistent." The Jets have alternated wins and losses all season and followed up great wins over the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints with blowout losses to the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills. They currently hold the final playoff spot despite being 1-4 on the road. The reason? They rank last in the league in turnover ratio (-14) and third to last in penalties (80).
PREDICTION: The strengths of both of these teams are on the defensive side of the ball. The Jets are dominant against the run and the Ravens can get after the quarterback. Both offenses, meanwhile, are mistake prone and maddeningly inconsistent. It stands to reason that the offense that makes the fewest mistakes will win. Even with Flacco's rash of miscues lately, it's a lot easier to trust him than Smith. The Ravens also have more offensive playmakers than the Jets do. After a lopsided loss last week, Ryan will have his team ready to play but his group will come up short in their quest to deal the Ravens and their playoff hopes a significant blow.