The pre-season doesn't begin until August, but with the draft over and with most free agents signed, many have begun to rank the teams for this season. And many analysts, even Madden, have put the Baltimore Ravens just ahead of the New York Jets, despite the Jets making it to the AFC Championship game, having the highest ranked defense, and having an explosive offseason. However, the Ravens are a very good team, with a top ten ranked offense (Jets ranked 17th), a solid defense, and with great acquisitions of their own. Both teams play very similar styles, and of course former Ravens Defensive Coordinator, Rex Ryan, is the head coach for the Jets, so that is a big reason to why. This should be very interesting to disect both teams, position by position, to decide who is the better one. Hopefully this will help you decide before the two face off in Week 1 on Monday Night Football.
Right away, most would say Flacco would win this bout easily; Sanchez threw 12 TD's and 20 INT's and posted a 63 QB rating, while Flacco threw 21 TD's and only 12 INT's with a 88.9 rating. Yet, I'd argue that this battle is much closer than you might expect. The Sanchise did go through growing pains (and boy, did they hurt sometimes) in his rookie season, but he did turn it on when it was crucial for the Jets when it came to the postseason; he threw 4 TD's and 2 INT's, where one was an 80-yard pass to Braylon Edwards in the AFC Championship Game. The Sanchise was great when they most needed him to be and the Jets saw him mature in front of their own eyes. Joe Cool had a great sophomore season last year, but struggled in the playoffs throwing 0 TD's and 3 INT's. Sanchez did, however, have knee surgery during the offseason, but does appear to have successfully recovered. I would expect a jump in his numbers because he now has one year under his belt, and with Braylon and new race car Santonio Holmes, as well as LaDainian Tomlinson and Joe McKnight to throw to out of the backfield. Let's not forget about Flacco, who now has Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth to pass to. Both QB's should have a more productive year this year than last.
Edge Goes to: Ravens
In the end, Flacco does have a stronger arm and more experience. He has shown he can be a top QB in the NFL. But Sanchez isn't that far off; he doesn't have as strong of an arm, but has a more accurate one and can throw on the run extremely well, and could be a top QB one day, too.
This comparison is just as close as the first one. The Ravens know Santonio all too well, and know how dangerous and versatile he can be. Holmes had 8 TD's and averaged 74.3 yards per game over the last 7 games against Baltimore. And everyone knows about his hands and footwork. But the argument is whether 16 games of Anquan Boldin is better than 12 games of Santonio Holmes. Holmes has been given a four-game suspension by the league for violating the substance policy. Boldin has great hands as well and is equally tough as Holmes. If there was no suspension, Holmes would get my vote, but since this is reality, Boldin wins this match up.
Next is Edwards and Mason. Edwards now has had a year to work with Brian Schottenheimer and Sanchez and is expected to have a breakout season, especially when he is the number two receiver. Mason last year was Flacco's besttarget with 73 receptions for 1028 yards and 7 TD's. But Mason is already 36 and not getting any younger. It isn't known if he can keep up with the rest of the league and can stay injury-free, but has been able to do so so far in his career. Braylon has been known to drop passes, but is still a Pro Bowl receiver who is a deep threat. Braylon wins this one. Besides, his hands can't be this bad.
Third is Cotchery and Stallworth. Both will presumably be the third string wide receiver, yet I believe Cotchery has a big advantage over Stallworth. Jerricho entered last year as the Jets'numberone receiver, and finished last year with 57 catches for 821 yards and 3 TD's. He is known for his sure-handedness and his reliability. Plus, Stallworth has been out of football for a year, and he has had a lot on his mind since the incident. Even before that, Cotchery is a better receiver than Stallworth.
Finally, the tight end bout begins. Up-and-coming star tight end Dustin Keller has been impressive since being drafted in 2008. He has shown his breakaway speed, his great hands, and his ability to run routes well. Last year, Keller had 5 TD's (3 in postseason). Todd Heap has shown he can be a consistent target as well be able to block very well. Last year he had 6 TD's. This one is hard to decide which end is going to be better, so I'll just say that Keller wins the receiving half, but Heap wins when it comes to being a traditional blocking tight end.
Edge Goes to: Jets
While Holmes is suspended for four games, the other Jets' receivers are all-around better than the Ravens'. Other than Edwards, the Jets' receivers are very consistent. Also, the four mentioned Jets all have playmaking ability. Boldin is a great receiver, but it will be interesting to see how he'll do without defenses worrying about Larry Fitzgerald instead. And Mason did have some costly drops last season. Additionally, while Heap is all around better right now, Keller is a better receiving option and a better playmaker, too. Although, I would give Mark Clayton the edge over David Clowney.
Last season, both teams relied on the run for offense. Both teams finished the season ranking in the top five rushing teams. The Jets may have taken a hit when they let Thomas Jones go and trading away Leon Washington after last year. But they did sign LT and draft USC back Joe McKnight. Both will help both the pass and run game, but LT is getting older and last year looked it. Personally, I think that it was in part due to a weaker O-line and that the Chargers began passing more. McKnight the rookie may be used sparingly this year so it's hard to tell whether or not he'll have an impact this year. The Jets do, however, have one of the best fullbacks of all time in Tony Richardson. T-Rich showed he could lead block for several backs last year, including Shonn Greene. And Greene had a terrific postseason last year, exploding for big runs and scores (304 yards and 2 TD's in 3 games).
Ray Rice also had an explosive postseason, mainly against the Patriots, with 226 yards and 2 TD's in 2 games. Rice can catch the ball, too; he had 702 yards and 1 TD in addition to his 1,339 and 7 TD's rushing. McGahee was their Red Zone and goal line back last year and totaled 14 TD's. The two backs make for a strong duo in the backfield. Let's not forget Pro Bowl fullback LeRon McClain. He has been a very good lead blocker and pass blocker, plus he can run and catch the ball also. Jalen Parmele is young and can develop into a decent back, especially since most of the league has evolved into using two or three backs in a game.
Edge Goes to: Ravens
Ray Rice is certainly one of the tops backs in this league right now and McGahee is very good goal line back who will continue to pile up TD's. Parmele was a non-factor last year, but could be used more. And McClain could be the best overall fullback in football currently. The Jets do have a great running game as well, but I want to wait and see on what Greene can do for a full season as the feature back. And LT does have a chip on his shoulder, but he has to prove he still belongs here first. I think LT will have a nice season, but don't expect the LT from 2006. McKnight will be used, but is still a raw talent who could learn and grow from learning from LT and the great Tony Richarson.
Moving on to the big men up front, and boththe Jets and Ravens have top talent there. The Jets have Pro Bowlers at three of the five spots with Mangold, Ferguson, and Woody; and Brandon Moore is considered to be a top guard in the league as well. The Ravens have six-time Pro Bowler Matt Birk at center, with young, but promising tackles Oher and Gaither. Grubbs is coming along as well, but probably won't be as good as the aforementioned two. The Jets, however, released All-Decade guard Alan Faneca during the offseason and have left either young Matt Slauson or rookie Vlad Ducasse to win Faneca's spot. Both are unknown factors and are considered to be the weakpointof the line for the Jets. The Ravens have a solid line as well, and with the blocking ability of Todd Heap, they get a boost there. Yet, the Jets O-line provedto be one of the best last year, where the Jets allowed only 53 QB hits, where Baltimore let up 72. The Jets' line also led the way for the rushing attack, which earned 172.2 yards per game (first in 2009-10). The Ravens finished fifth in that category with 137.5 yards per game.
Edge Goes to: Jets
Despite the loss of the great Alan Faneca, the Jets' line has better veterans. While the Ravens have Gaither and Oher, D'Brickashaw is already considered one of the best left tackles in football. And even though Matt Birk has been great, Mangold is easily the best center in the NFL, thanks to the help of ex-Jet Kevin Mawae. Don't get me wrong, both lines are top notch, but the Jets' line is just a little better.
There are more linemen than the nine mentioned above, but it is unclear how everyone on both teams will be rotated, including Cory Redding and Jason Taylor. After Big Jenks, the Jets don't have many big time pass-rushing linemen, just great schemes from head coach Rex Ryan. Vernon Gholston has switched to DE for this, likely his last chance to succeed with Jets. If he can do well, he can greatly boost the Jets' number one defense. Now, the Ravens. Ngata and Pryce have been big for the Ravens the past few years, each becoming Pro Bowlers. Pryce had 26 sacks in his four years with the Ravens. Ngata has been one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the NFL piling up tackles and stopping the run; now, he has been converted to defensive end and should get more sacks as a result.
Edge Goes to: Ravens
Ngata and Pryce make for a powerful force at the end positions. They should both have great years, despite Haloti's pectoral injury. Kelly Gregg is consistent and Terrence Cody may not play much this year, but can be effective because of his size when he does. The Jets have no one that really impresses me, other than Jenkins, but do have Rex's schemes which make their line as formidable as any other in the league. However, the Ravens' line is still better.
Now this match up is very interesting. Former Raven Bart Scott has taken command in the locker room as well as on the field for the Jets. Because of his willingness to take hits for the team and to take out blockers, he helped propel David Harris to his breakout season last year (127 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 2 INT's, and 2 forced fumbles). They call themselves "The Odd Couple" because of their off-the-field nature, yet both work together extremely well. They could possibly be the best MLB tandem in the NFL right now. Next, Calvin Pace had a four game suspension last year, yet still managed to get 8 sacks. This year, he should be able to gather double-digit sacks. And all-time great Jason Taylor and Bryan Thomas will be sharing time at LOLB; Taylor should see a good amount of time at LB and DE and should get a good amount of sacks himself, but Thomas can cover tight ends and backs and is better at guarding against the pass.
Ray Lewis is one of the greatest linebackers of all time and still is one of the best in the NFL today. And while he takes the attention of the offense, Terrell Suggs will spin his way to the QB. But last year, he only totaled 4.5 sacks in 13 games. On the left side, Jarret Johnson had 6 sacks last year. Ray-Ray's 3-4 partner, Tavares Gooden, only had 47 tackles with 0 sacks. After Lewis, there is a big drop-off in talent; Suggs can be great, but was very incosistentin getting to the QB last year. But rookie Sergio Kindle could get an opportunity to rotate with Johnson, and we can see if the second-rounder can be productive.
Edge Goes to: Jets
Despite having Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, the Ravens' linebacking core is weaker. Ray Lewis is better than Scott and probably Harris, but Gooden is a huge drop-off from there. And Suggs does have a slight edge on Pace, if he can remain consistent, but JT and Thomas are better than Johnson. And it's too soon to see what Kindle will do.
This one isn't nearly as close as you might think. Darrelle Revis is on a completely different level from any other corner currently in the NFL. With comparisons to the likes of Deon Sanders and the ability to shut down any receiver in the NFL, as well as be a playmakeron defense, he is an incredible talent. With the addition of Cromartiefrom the Chargers, the Jets secondary took a huge leap forward, the year after it was by the best in the NFL (153.7 yards per game, over 30 yards less than second least). Kyle Wilson is already considered one of the best corners from this past draft, and would play in nickel and dime packages. Jim Leonhard, as both Raven and Jet fans know, is very tough and is a leader on defense. He can blitz, stop the run, and still play the pass. Brodney Pool could be the most underrated acquistion by the Jets in the offseason; he had 7 INT's over the last 2 seasons despite being injured both years.
Ed Reed could be the greatest free safety in NFL history, but he has had injury issues of his own. Landry has been solid since regaining his job from Leonhard and did have 4 INT's last year opposite Reed. After that, their secondary is a little shaky; their top four corners only had a combined 6 INT's (as many as Revis alone). They have no shut down or real number one corner as of right now. But don't get me wrong, the corners they have, including new addition Ken Hamlin, are all solid, just not outstanding players.
Edge Goes to: Jets
Darrelle Revis is just too good right now to not give the Jets the edge here. That's not even considering Cromartie or Wilson. The Jets' corners are superior to the Ravens', but the Ravens do have the edge at safety if Reed stays healthy. In the end, the Jets' secondary with Rex Ryan's schemes is the best in football.
Special Teams -
Rex has already said that Kyle Wilson will enter the season as the starting punt returner. At Boise State, he was considered to be one of the best returnmen with explosive speed and toughness. Carr is also a tough, solid returner, but hasn't been as explosive. It's hard to translate from college to the pros, but Carr hasn't had a return TD in his five-year career. Brad Smith and Webb both showed explosive speed in the return game. Webb averaged 26.2 yards per return with one TD. Smith averaged 31.0 yards per return, including a 106 yard TD. Nick Folk was released by the Cowboys last year because of his inconsistency, while Shayne Graham was great all year, until the playoffs. Weatherford averaged 42.0 yards per punt and Koch averaged 43.7 yards per punt, but Weatherford can do trick plays because of his athleticism.
Edge Goes to: Neither
With playmakers all over the special teams, it's hard to not give this one to the Jets. But Folk can really bring the ST down; Graham and Cundiff are both more consistent than Folk. It's hard to tell who really is better at punter, but frankly, who really cares? Koch is probably a little better, but Weatherford can run trick plays well. And Wilson is an unknown commodity now, so maybe Carr has the edge there. It's pretty even if you ask me.
And, yes, the Jets did make it to the Championship game versus the Colts, but the team the Ravens lost to was the Colts as well. Maybe the teams are far more equal than anyone would've thought. But, in the end, it's up to you to decide who you believe is better. I've given my opinion, but now you pick who you think will be better this year. I am also posting this on Gang Green Nation if you want to see the Jets' fans' perspectives.