The New York Jets have a couple of players with injuries whose absence could significantly affect their ability to hang with the Baltimore Ravens in their prime time match-up on Sunday Night Football. Both CB Antonio Cromartie and center Nick Mangold sat out of practice on Wednesday and are uncertain as to what their status will be for the game. Even ESPN says their Accu-Score stats sees the Ravens as having a solid advantage in this game.
It looks like Cromartie is more likely to play for the Jets, but if not, second year CB Kyle Wilson will start at corner with Derrelle Revis. While that is not as desired by New York, Wilson has significantly improved from his rookie season and could adequately step up in Cromartie's absence. The anticipated match-up between Wilson and Ravens rookie WR Torrey Smith, who had a record-setting game last week against the St. Louis Rams with three TD receptions in the first quarter, probably has many a Ravens fan drooling at a possible repeat performance.
However, it's the center position that injury could have a devastating effect on the Jets offense. If Mangold is not able to go, due to the high ankle sprain that kept him out of the 34-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders, then the Jets will have to once again go with rookie Colin Baxter. Baxter played okay against the Raiders, but the Jets did give up four sacks of QB Mark Sanchez in the second half of that game. can you imagine a rookie center having to go up against Ravens All-Pro DT Haloti Ngata?
Ngata regularly embarrasses All-Pro centers so if the Jets are forced to go with a rookie center, he will have a long afternoon being "schooled" by Professor Ngata. The key to winning games in the NFL is the play in the trenches. Win the battle of the trenches and you usually win the game. That happened in all three of the Ravens games this year, as they won those trench battles against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Rams, yet lost it against the Tennessee Titans.
If New York starts the rookie Baxter, they will have to provide him help in both run and pass blocking, which means someone else such as a guard or blocking back will have to double-team Ngata. This will leave other Jets linemen one-on-one with guys such as Terrell Suggs, which could be a huge mistake or benefit, depending on which team colors you support. It could also demand the Jets keep a tight end in to help at pass blocking, which of course favors the Ravens secondary with less receivers to cover in pass patterns.
Either way, the loss of an All-Pro center would be the worst case scenario for New York and if Mangold cannot go, then the Ravens should go into this game with a significant defensive advantage. Although most viewers watch the QB and skill position players once the ball is snapped, it might be worth a look to see how quickly Haloti and his buddies collapse the Jets' offensive line. Even with a gimpy Mangold, the advantage seems to be huge in the Ravens favor.