Later today at M&T Bank Stadium, the Baltimore Ravens will “wet their beaks” on the NFC South once again. The Ravens are 2-0 against the Division and they are looking to add to that record by defeating the visiting Atlanta Falcons.
Matt Ryan, who has often been compared to Joe Flacco because they were both selected in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft, was taken 15 picks before Flacco but seems to have been much less fortunate. Flacco was drafted 18 overall when Baltimore moved up in the draft to take him; and, since that time, he has made a habit of starting Playoff games. He also has a Super Bowl ring to punctuate his football fortune.
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When the Ravens and Falcons meet this Sunday, it will be a match of two vastly different teams. The Ravens seems to have regained its footing as a playoff contender and the Falcons continue to struggle in a fairly weak division.
The Falcons currently have a 2-4 record and are in sole possession of third place in their division. Although they have a talented roster, the Falcons have found it difficult to parlay that talent and potential into a winning record.
“Sunday’s game is one that, on paper, the Ravens should win.”
Sunday’s game is one that, on paper, the Ravens should win. The Ravens’ Defensive front is better than the Falcons’ Offensive Line and the Ravens Offensive line is better than the Falcons’ defensive front. The Falcons’ O-Line has had issues with injuries and lack of consistency. Quarterback Matt Ryan has been sacked 10 times this season and has thrown 7 interceptions.
Atlanta’s Defense has been struggling. Collectively, the Falcons’ have six sacks; one more than Ravens’ Sam Linebacker Elvis Dumervil. Their secondary has two interceptions this season, equaling the number of picks by Ravens’ Defensive End Haloti Ngata. However, Joe Flacco and his Ravens need to guard against looking past this game. The Falcons can be a very dangerous opponent.
Despite their losing record, the Falcons still have one of the most formidable Wide Receiver duos in the NFL. Both Roddy White and Julio Jones are “home run” threats from anywhere on the field. Wide Receiver Devin Hester is one of the best kick and punt returners in the league and is always a threat to take one to the “house.”
Atlanta’s Running Backs, led by Steven Jackson, are a powerful group that can take a game over. It is critical that the Ravens stop the run and limit catches out of the backfield. To put this game in the win column, the Baltimore Ravens must smother Hester in a sea of purple, stuff these Running Backs as soon as they touch the ball and move Matt Ryan off of his mark.
Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs must pressure and hit Ryan over and over, before he can do any damage. They should make Ryan continually feel pressured and force him to respond by rushing his throws. They must hunt him like a pack of starving wolves and continue until their hunger is satisfied.
“Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs must pressure and hit Ryan over and over, before he can do any damage.”
Ravens’ Wide Receivers will be expected to play a crucial role on Sunday. Torrey Smith must win on his routes all day long and Steve Smith Sr must continue to make “school kids” out of the Falcons’ secondary. When called upon, the backups must perform as well as the starters, denying Atlanta any opportunity to succeed or hope that they can do so.
On Defense, Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Darian Stewart must get their hands on the Falcons’ receivers and reroute White and Jones as much as possible. They must play them tight but not give up the big play. Meanwhile, the Ravens will look to Brandon Williams and Ngata to push the pocket, denying Ryan a lane to escape or “climb the pocket.
The battle between the Ravens’ rookie Offensive Tackles and the Falcons’ veteran Defensive Ends will be critical. If Flacco has to run for his life, the Ravens will be in trouble. Another battle to watch will be between Punter Sam Koch and Punt Returner Devin Hester. Koch will need to kick the ball well and keep it away from Hester. Conversely, Jacoby Jones must have a good day returning the ball on Kickoffs and punts.
The offensive game plan should continue to feature balance. The Ravens should run the ball on 45 to 50 percent of their offensive plays, especially against a defense that has not shown a propensity for stopping the run.
If the Baltimore Ravens continue to play sound, fundamental football, get the ball to their playmakers on schedule and stay true to their assignment, they should win. I am convinced they will continue the level of play we witnessed last week and close the day with a 27-20 win.