By Glenn Naughton
Desperate for a spark on offense (or of any kind for that matter), the 1-5 New York Jets, with playoff hopes dashed, will start quarterback Geno Smith against Joe Flacco and the 3-3 Baltimore Ravens. Here are some of the key match-ups and players to watch heading in to Sunday’s 1 o’ clock contest at MetLife Stadium.
CB Darrelle Revis vs. Wide Receiver Mike Wallace: Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis has been struggling mightily for much of this season, especially against speed receivers, and that’s exactly why this match-up is so big for Revis and the Jets.
We didn’t see Revis give up any big plays through the air last week against the Arizona Cardinals, but that could all change this week as he goes head-to-head with Wallace who may not be quite as fast as he was as a rookie when he posted a blazing 4.33 40-time at the combine, but he can still make quick work of most defenders on a “go” route.
Wallace’s production has been a bit up and down this season, going four straight contests without a touchdown. If Revis isn’t careful, he’ll find himself on the wrong end of another big play highlight reel yet again.
ILB David Harris vs. TE Dennis Pitta: Harris returns after missing his first game since 2008 last week against the Cardinals. With rookie linebacker Darron Lee ruled out for the contest, Harris will inevitably find himself matched up against Pitta. The 6′ 4” Pitta is one of quarterback Joe Flacco’s favorite targets and has hauled in 34 passes so far this season.
If head coach Todd Bowles decides to dial up the blitz again as he did last week, Pitta likely becomes a prime check-down option for Flacco. If Harris is hobbled by his right hamstring, it could mean a big day for the Ravens tight end.
WR Quincy Enunwa vs. CB Jimmy Smith: With Brandon Marshall likely to command some double teams from the Ravens secondary, the speedy Enunwa could get some one-on-one match-ups with the 6′ 2” Smith who has bee earned a grade of 69.3 from Pro Football Focus.
Smith has given up his fair share of big plays over the past couple of seasons and Enunwa and/or rookie Robby Anderson will look to find the end zone for a struggling Jets offense.
RB’s Matt Forte and Bilal Powell vs. ILB Zachary Orr: With Jets cornerback Geno Smith due to return under center, more of the play book will be opened up to take shots down the field, but they’ll also look to work the passing game underneath to Forte and Powell who will split reps.
The Jets are expected to try to limit Smith’s turnovers in an effort to have the offense do a better job of protecting the ball. Hopefully this means checking down to his backs while his receivers can use their speed to back off opposing defenses who had gotten too comfortable stacking the box with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center.
RG Brian Winters vs Defensive Lineman Timmy Jernigan: The biggest test for quarterback Geno Smith is going to be how well he
handles pressure. The Jets are the only team in the NFL whose guards and center have yet to allow a sack. A lot of that can be attributed to Ryan Fitzpatrick getting the ball out as quickly as he did.
If Smith isn’t quick and decisive with his throws, it could be a long day and Jernigan will be a big reason for that. He’s been the Ravens best D-lineman so far this season and could get some extra attention from Gang Green on obvious passing downs.
With Smith back under center, the Jets have a quarterback who can truly air it out. With multiple receivers capable of running in the 4.4’s (Enunwa, Anderson, Charone Peake and possibly Devin Smith), there should be plenty of chances for Smith to make something happen if he’s willing to stand tall in the pocket under duress.
For the second year in a row, the Ravens are ravaged by injuries, to include Joe Flacco who sat out some portions of practice this week with an injury to his throwing shoulder.