Two teams scuffling of late meet Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The Ravens — back in the Meadowlands after playing the Giants here last week — have lost three in a row to come in at 3-3.
The Jets, on a four-game losing streak, are struggling more. "It's not going to be sunshine all the time," head coach Todd Bowles said stoically. "You've got to take the good with the bad. Right now we're 1-5."
It's expected to be sunny and 60 at MetLife, and in an attempt to find the metaphorical sun, Bowles and the Green & White offense have turned to Geno Smith, replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick at starting QB for his first start in 22 months. Before the game the Jets will honor Dennis Byrd, and then it will be time for the memory of No. 90 to inspire the Jets to one more outstanding effort.
Here are seven points on Sunday's MetLife matchup between the Green and the Purple:
1. Ravin' over the RivalryThat's what the Jets could do because it's been all Baltimore since the Ravens were born in 1996. The Jets won the very first meeting, by 19-16 in OT at the old Meadowlands stadium (with Glenn Foley the winning pitcher and Vinny Testaverde the LP) in '97. Since, they've lost eight straight, three at home, some close and some not. One of them on the road was the last Jets 400-yard passing game, by Testaverde on Christmas Eve at Baltimore. A 400-yarder in a win for Smith would be unexpected and surely welcome.
2. Geno Channeling KenSome Geno nuggets in honor of Sunday's start. Smith's last start, we all recall, was the 2014 season finale at Miami, in which he engineered the 37-24 comeback over the Dolphins and in the process compiled a perfect 158.3 passer rating, the first by a Jets starter in a road win since Ken O'Brien at Seattle in 1986. Geno was also the last Jets QB to catch a pass (a 13-yarder from Josh Cribbs at Baltimore in '13) since ... O'Brien (a 27-yarder from Al Toon at Detroit in '91). Now can Brandon Marshall play Wesley Walker to Geno's O'Brien?
3. Joe and MartyRemember Marty Mornhinweg? He was the Jets' offensive coordinator in 2013-14 who became the Ravens' QBs coach last year and stepped up to OC before last week's game. He'd love to have Joe Flacco ready to roll for this game, but Flacco has a right shoulder issue. Flacco's one-word midweek answer on if he plans to start Sunday was "Yup," although he sat out Wednesday/Thursday practices. He leads the NFL with 164 completions and 264 attempts this year but his rating is 78.9. Career vs. the Jets: 3-0 but with 49.5% accuracy and a 63.7 rating.
4. Short TakesBowles has bemoaned the Jets' lack of takeaways. "You try everything — blitzing, dropping into coverage, practicing till you're blue in the face," he said. "Last year we got a bunch of turnovers, this year we haven't gotten 'em yet." True enough, last year the Jets had more TAs in the first six games (15) than they had for all of '14 (13). Now they have four TAs, and no interceptions in the opponents' last 157 passes. The Ravens have eight giveaways and Flacco has six himself. It's time for the Jets to turn over a new leaf.
5. Strength vs. StrengthOn the surface, Matt Forte and the run game struggled to 33 yards last week against the Cards' 23rd-ranked run defense. How will they fare against the Ravens' run D, which ascended to No. 1 last week for the first time since early 2009? The last time "the Work Horse" faced Baltimore was in '13, when he had 125 yards from scrimmage. Another element in the Jets' favor: health. Three Ravens LBs — Terrell Suggs (biceps), C.J. Mosley (thigh) and Elvis Dumervil (foot) hadn't practiced the first two days this week.
A Look Back at the Battle between these two AFC Foes
6. Penalty Against...The Jets had their yellow flag woes Monday night with 14 penalties (10 accepted) but for the season their 38 penalties are middle of the NFL pack. At the top: Baltimore and Oakland are tied for No. 1 with 52 flags. The Ravens have committed 34 of their infractions during their three-game losing streak, prompting coach Jim Harbaugh to muse that if it wasn't against league rules, "I would definitely be all for a fine jar." It would be fine by Bowles if the Ravens gave up 111 free yards as they did to the Giants in this same stadium a week ago.
7. Block Those BlockersWe'll have more on Nick Folk in Saturday's Inside the Numbers, but today's seventh point is Folk's warning about the Ravens' FG block group: "They have a pretty good unit there, so we're making sure we're prepared, not just snap and hold and kick but the whole field goal unit." The Ravens lead the NFL with six blocks the last two years, with Lawrence Guy and Brent Urban each having one block on the road this year and each having two blocks since '15. This year Tavon Young even got the NFL's first defensive two-point conversion return.