Rice remains the key to the Ravens success
Week 10: Baltimore Ravens at Atlanta Falcons
Thursday November 11, 2010 8:00 PM
Line: Ravens +1 O/U 43
The NFL wants you to believe that it is all about player safety. The NFL wants you to believe that their number one primary interest is protecting those who make this such a fun game to watch. The NFL wants you to believe that it’s not all about money, that it’s not all about NFL Network revenues. The NFL wants you to believe a lot of things. Yet for some reason the League still feels like it’s a good idea to schedule Thursday night football games for teams who just played on Sunday. There are many players who are so tight and sore the day after Sunday contests that they can barely walk, let alone practice, and the league wants them to go right back at it three days later? That’s just insanity. But unfortunately, it is what it is and the Ravens must now get geared up to face a very difficult road test against the Atlanta Falcons, who are undefeated at home this season.
The Ravens looked very good against the Dolphins, and came away from the game with little to no major bumps or bruises. However the Falcons are a much better team than Miami, and currently lead the NFC South by a slim margin over New Orleans. Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and Michael Turner are all going to be ready to play, and the Ravens will have to find a way to suck it up, keep moving forward, and dominate if they hope to win. With that, let’s take a look at this week’s keys to the game.
RavensGab.com Keys to the Game
RUN! THE! BALL!
The Ravens and the Falcons both faced difficult opponents on Sunday and are heading into the short week having won their respective match ups. The Falcons get a slight edge because they don’t have to travel on Thursday, which eats into precious preparation time. Because of this, the focus must heavily be on the running game for both teams. Running the ball allows you to control the clock, running the ball lets you dominate the point of attack and dictate the game plan, running the ball protects your players from jarring hits and limits the opportunity for significant injuries. Additionally, both teams will be tired in this game. Whichever offense possesses the ball the longest will likely win because the opposing defenses are just going to simply run out of gas. Run! The! Ball!
Stop the Rush
This has not been the best season for the Raven’s rush defense. It hasn’t quite been porous, but it has looked anemic at times when it has failed to stop opposing teams from running the ball straight up the middle. There was a time not long ago when opposing Coordinators simply took the run plan out of the game due to the futility in cramming the ball down the Ravens’ throats. This year that has not even remotely been the case. Hell, even last week against the Dolphins, Ronnie Brown was running extremely well before powers that be inexplicably removed him from the game plan. To beat the Falcons, the Ravens must return to form and bottle up Michael Turner. Seeing as the Falcons are 6th in the league in rushing yards, this will be no easy feat.
Set Terrell Free
Against Miami, the Ravens finally figured it out. Part of the problem with their lackluster pass rush is that they kept positioning Terrell Suggs in the same spot for every down, using him like a traditional rushing end. News flash Greg Mattison! As talented as Terrell is, he is not Dwight Freeney. Terrell is at his best when he’s being moved around to different spots and creating havoc on the opposing team’s game plan. He was successful in disrupting plays on Sunday because he wasn’t being double teamed nearly as often, in large part because no one knew where he was going to be lined up. The Ravens will need their pass rush to be at its best on Thursday. the Falcons don’t let up many sacks and Matt Ryan doesn’t throw many interceptions. If the Ravens can force the falcons into the former, they will capitalize on the latter.
Protect Joe Flacco
Rest assured that the Falcons are going to bring the house against Joe Flacco this week. They are going to count on the offensive line being tired and sore and will do whatever they can to get to the Quarterback. If the Ravens are to win this game, they will have to man up, summon all of their strength and keep Joe upright. The Falcons give up a ton of passing yards. if the Ravens can give Joe some time, I guarantee you that he will make the Falcons pay dearly for it.
Possess the Ball
Above I talked about the necessity to hold the ball for as much of the game as possible. The time of possession battle here is going to be crucial because which ever defense is on the field the longest, is the one likely to make the most mistakes. Part and Parcel with this edict, is that the Ravens must also protect the ball. The Falcons have been very opportunistic with interceptions this season and are at the top of the league in takeaways (fumbles and INTs). Joe and Ray Rice and Willis McGahee have all got to protect the ball from turnovers if they are going to wear down the Falcons and win the game.
Win this Game Early
Against the Dolphins this was a necessity, but against the Falcons this key is unimaginably pivotal. If the Ravens can manage to get up early against the Falcons, their will to fight will be severely depleted. The strain and toll of a short week will be too much to bear. If either team falls into a hole early, the likelihood of their being able to comeback decreases ten fold. This is all not to mention the fact that the Ravens are playing in a dome environment, and an early lead will effectively take the Falcon faithful out of the equation. Dome teams are better at home in part due to crowd noise. Take out the team quickly and you’ll take out the fans.
Ravens Gab Predictions
Jonathon Scruggs (7-1)
Early miscues could have cost the Ravens dearly against the Dolphins, but they held fast. Additionally, the Ravens received a number of lucky breaks and were able to exploit Miami weaknesses all day long. The Falcons are a much better team, and the Ravens will face a daunting test in coming out of the Georgia Dome with the win. Under Brian Billick I would have easily considered this game a loss, however under John Harbaugh I think the Ravens win a nail-biter and improve to 7-2 heading into the de facto second bye week.
Fun Fact of the Week: Since 2006 when the NFL implemented these ill conceived Thursday games, the home teams have enjoyed an 18-13 record (discounting the annual Detroit Thanksgiving blow-out and its 18-9). Clearly the home team has a decided advantage going into these games. Your move NFL.
Ravens 20 — Falcons 19
Matt Jergensen (7-1)
“These two teams are very similiar and both have balance. I give the edge to Baltimore because with all our issues our defense is better and if Cameron decides to use all our backfield options they should be able to run effectively too. Either way it should be a very good ball game.”
Ravens 23 – Falcons 21
Gene Winner (6-2)
The NFL has a few things wrong, one of them is the game in London and the other is making teams play on a really short week, for Thursday Night Football. With that being said, the Ravens can win this game by exploiting Atlanta’s secondary. The Ravens run defense has to show up this game facing the power back Michael Turner.
Ravens 34 – Falcons 27