Wow, this posting is going to be difficult one for me this week. The past three weeks I've predicted a Ravens victory and they have come through for me. At the same time, this summer when I did a complete game by game prediction for 2008, I had the Giants destroying our Ravens by a score of 30-10. Of course that was long before the Ravens went from looking like they did in 2007 to how they played in their 13-3 2006 season. Now standing at 6-3 and tied for first place in the AFC North, the expectations have risen considerably.
This week's opponent is by far their toughest of the season. While the Ravens have six victories, all three of their losses have come against teams with winning records, and the Giants enter today's contest at 8-1 and one of the top two teams in the NFL. The Ravens have been flying under everyone's radar up until now and a win today will definitely change all that. A victory on the road against the defending Super Bowl Champs will be a tall task, one I'm sure the Ravens are up for, but can they put together a full sixty minutes of a solid gameplan and execute it to perfection in order to emerge victorious? That's because it will probably take a perfect game to make it happen, as the Giants will do everything they can to spoil it for us.
In the past, I've always said the games are won or lost in the trenches. While I'm not exactly backing off of this claim, be advised that as good as the Ravens have been along the lines, the Giants might have the best offensive and defensive lines in the league. They certainly have the best combination of the two and that is their advantage over Baltimore today. If the game is totally based on that, then it will not turn out to be a good day for the Ravens.
However, since both teams have great defenses, and their offenses are closer to each other than most Giants fans will like to admit, the game will be won on the intangibles. When you have the best running game (Giants) up against the best run defense (Ravens), something's got to give. While I don't expect Ray Lewis to put Brandon Jacobs out of the game like he's done to a couple of other RB's this season, he will get his licks in. Conversely, Jacobs will porbably do his share of running over and through the Ravens defensive players who try to take him down one-on-one. I don't expect the Giants to have any individual player over 100 yards, keeping the Ravens streak intact. To hold the Giants collectively under 100 yards will also be a chore, and today I believe the Giants will get that done. If they get a lead going into the latter part of the game, expect a huge dose of Jacobs and company to wear down a tired Ravens defense.
The hope of a Ravens win lies in two things, both of which I mentioned earlier this week in a prior post. Eli Manning has to have one of his poor games, which he is capable of, but has not really had a clunker, other than in the Browns loss. Hopefully, the Ravens defensive schemes confuse him and have him throwing into coverage for picks that the Ravens can turn into easy points. It will be hard to manage long, time consuming drives that the Ravens have enjoyed all season against this stout Giants defense. However, they have given up points in bunches, as recently as last week to the Eagles, although they still got the victory. But this is not the Eagles defense the Giants are facing. They will be hit harder and more often than they have at any time this season and are beatable because of that. The Giants won at Pittsburgh, where the Ravens didn't. However, that game was very close and could have gone either way.
Here's hoping that Eli has a poor game and the Ravens can also get points off of Special Teams to make Joe Flacco's job a lot easier. Here's also hoping the Ravens running attack makes progress against the New York defense, also keeping the pressure off of Flacco to win the game or even worse, bring us back from a deficit by having to air it out too often.
Unfortunately, I see the same challenges we had in our loss to the Steelers ahead of us. There are just too many things that have to go our way all game long in order for the Ravens to pull of the upset and shock the football world. On the other hand, if the Giants play like they can, that should be enough to earn the win. I'm hoping that the Ravens do us fans proud by staying in the game for sixty minutes and keeping it close. Of course, if they do, we'll be talking about another one we let get away. Me, I'll be glad to get out of Dodge healthy and prepare to defend our home turf against the Eagles next week. Oh, I'll also be rooting like crazy at 4pm for the Chargers to upset the Steelers. However, I don't see the Ravens doing the same to the Giants who are a full touchdown favorite to win this game, which they should.