3TFO: Giants @ Ravens, Week 16
Before Sunday’s shutout loss in Atlanta, the New York Giants controlled their own destiny in the NFC East. That’s not the case anymore, and they know they can’t afford to slip up anymore as they head on the road for the second straight week.
The Baltimore Ravens come into this week licking their wounds on the back of their third straight loss. Suddenly the once vaunted M&T Bank Stadium has been breached on two straight occasions, not the ideal situation you want to be in as you welcome the defending world champions.
With both teams battling in the race for the playoffs, and a division title, this promises to be an important game that neither team can really afford to lose. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the three key areas to focus on in this Week 16 matchup.
Giants Defensive Ends vs. Ravens Offensive Line
As the Giants try to get themselves back on track in the race to the postseason, they’ll be looking for more consistency from their highly regarded defensive line. With seven sacks, three hits and 42 hurries, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has been their most reliable pass rusher, as evidenced by his Pass Rushing Productivity rating of 9.4. With 39 total pressures from 345 snaps as a pass rusher, Osi Umenyiora is slightly behind that production, with a PRP Rating of 8.9, while Justin Tuck brings up the rear with a PRP Rating of 6.2, registering just 28 total pressures from 351 pass rushing snaps.
Fortunately for the Giants, this week they head to Baltimore to go up against a set of Ravens offensive tackles who have had their own problems with consistency. Left tackle Michael Oher ranks 42nd among all offensive tackles with a Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE) Rating of 93.9, allowing eight sacks, nine hits and 23 hurries from 527 pass blocking snaps. On the right side, rookie Kelechi Osemele has performed slightly better, allowing seven sacks, six hits and 23 hurries from 515 pass blocking snaps, giving him a PBE Rating of 94.4. What’s concerning for Osemele is that when he has struggled, he has really struggled, with 19 of his 36 total pressures allowed coming in just three games.
Giants Wide Receivers vs. Ravens Cornerbacks
While he has struggled with injuries this season — and he’s already missed practice this week — there’s no denying the talent of Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks. Averaging 13.1 yards per catch, Nicks has dropped just two of the 55 catchable passes thrown to him, giving him a Drop Rate of just 3.64, which ranks third among all wide receivers. Victor Cruz has been less sure-handed, with a Drop Rate of 12.22 coming from 11 drops on 90 catchable balls. Where Cruz excels though, is as a big-play threat with a reception of 20 or more yards in eight games this season.
Consistency is the name of the game for Ravens cornerback Cary Williams, who has seen his fair share of big plays, both good and bad, on passes into his coverage this season. Targeted 99 times in coverage by opposing quarterbacks, Williams has yielded six touchdowns and has allowed a reception of 20 or more yards in 11 games. The flip side is he has also picked-off four passes and broken up another 10. Opposite him, Corey Graham has filled in for Jimmy Smith — who was already filling in for Lardarius Webb — and has actually performed better than last season’s first-round draft pick. With five pass breakups and two interceptions, compared to just one touchdown allowed, from the 48 passes thrown into his coverage he has made it difficult for the Ravens to allow Smith to walk back into the starting line-up.
The Ravens Secret Superstars
While the headlines on the Ravens’ defense this season have focussed on the losses, and comebacks, of Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, it’s worth pointing out that two of the lesser regarded players have each excelled in one aspect of their game in particular. Rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw has looked up to the task of replacing Jarret Johnson, who was a constant force against the run during the past four seasons. With 29 of his 34 tackles resulting in a defensive stop, coming from 282 snaps against the run, Upshaw ranks second among outside linebackers with a Run Stop Percentage of 10.3%.
Also at outside linebacker, Paul Kruger has quietly been the Ravens’ best, and most consistent, pass rusher. It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that San Francisco’s Aldon Smith leads all 3-4 outside linebackers with a PRP Rating of 12.0. What might surprise you though, is that with the likes of DeMarcus Ware and Clay Matthews at the position, it’s actually Kruger who is second. His sack numbers may be lower than some of those around him, but with 47 total pressures from 318 snaps as a pass rusher, he has a PRP Rating of 11.8. He’s particularly effective from the left of the defense, where his PRP Rating rises to 14.5.
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