With the Ravens aiming to maintain first place in the AFC North and improve to 4-2 against the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. A win would do much more for the perception of the upstart Giants than the Ravens, who are substantial road favorites despite a worse record. New York has been one of the NFL’s better stories thus far, but the difference in talent on paper between these teams is distinct.
2. Lamar Jackson quipped how there “ain’t no telling” how many blitzes Baltimore will see from Wink Martindale, but the ex-Ravens defensive coordinator successfully changed it up against Patrick Mahomes last year. Greg Roman cautioned against overthinking their familiarity “because you can end up in a room of never-ending mirrors.”
3. I’m curious to see how Martindale attacks with Jackson owning a 12-0 record in starts against NFC teams. That usual lack of familiarity for NFC opponents won’t be the same issue for Martindale or Giants players who faced the star quarterback two years ago, but such dynamics go both ways.
4. Geno Stone was forgotten after finishing his rookie season in Houston, but the Ravens re-signed the 2020 seventh-round safety months later and he’s done nothing but improve his standing and earn trust as a depth piece. He’s in line to make his second career start with Marcus Williams out indefinitely.
5. Sunday marks a reunion for J.K. Dobbins and Saquon Barkley, who had a memorable 2017 college showdown. Dobbins has credited Barkley’s support during his recovery from a serious knee injury with the latter now looking to be all the way back from his own injury. Barkley poses a problem.
6. Barkley is the main reason why the Giants rank second in the NFL in rate of runs to gain a first down or touchdown at 31.9%, according to Sharp Football. Who’s first? The Ravens, who are at 35.7% and really finding their way on the ground after a rough start.
7. Baltimore can’t forget about Daniel Jones, who seems to be over his recent ankle injury and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. A path to victory for New York would involve Jones’ legs making a difference, and the Ravens had problems with the mobility of Mac Jones and Josh Allen.
8. The Giants like to use multiple tight ends with Daniel Bellinger, Chris Myarick, and Tanner Hudson all averaging at least 25 snaps per game, so Mike Macdonald will likely counter with more base defense than we’re used to seeing. Ravens linebackers need to be physical and smart in this matchup.
9. According to Sharp Football, the Ravens are averaging an NFL-best 6.6 yards per play on first down and the Giants allowing a league-worst 7.2 yards per play on first down. New York has been stout on third down, so the best formula is to stay out of that situation entirely.
10. What kind of betting action could you have gotten on Richie James being the leading Giants receiver through five games? I would have more likely guessed Rick James, who’s been gone for 18 years. That aside, Darius Slayton is healthy and coming off his best game in two years.
11. Questions persist about Nick Boyle’s lack of playing time, but Patrick Ricard has played at least 36 offensive snaps in every game and Josh Oliver ranks fourth among qualifying tight ends in run blocking, according to Pro Football Focus. Boyle didn’t play a single offensive snap against Buffalo or Cincinnati.
12. I’m reminded this week of the 2018 meeting with former Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who had retired at the end of 2017 before changing his mind weeks later to join Mike Vrabel and Tennessee. The Ravens piled up a team-record 11 sacks in a 21-0 road victory.