Former Ravens safety Dawan Landry expressed confidence in his new team and quarterback on Thursday, telling the Baltimore media that he thinks Blaine Gabbert will have the Ravens defense "wired" by Monday. If only I was as confident as Landry.
Make no mistake, the Ravens defense is the league's best unit. While they have allowed 16 more yards per game than the Steelers and eight more than the Bengals, they have allowed the fewest points in the NFL by a wide margin. Even more impressive considering Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense were responsible for allowing two of the eight touchdowns the Ravens have given up all season.
The Ravens have given up one rushing touchdown and four receiving touchdowns through their five games and the defense themselves have managed to score on a league leading four occasions.
On paper, Monday night's matchup certainly looks like a case of an immovable object going against a very stoppable force. To score against the Ravens, the Jaguars offense will have to be at their very best and take advantage of anything and everything that is given to them.
1. Take care of the football
The Ravens have forced the NFL's most fumbles (10) despite having played a game fewer than most teams. Their six interceptions are tied for the NFL's tenth most.
Blaine Gabbert has done a good job of taking care not to throw interceptions in recent weeks. His last came in the third quarter against the Saints. He has since thrown 70 consecutive passes without an interception and Monday night would be a good time to keep that streak alive.
The Jaguars have also done a decent job at avoiding fumbles in the last two weeks, with the exception of the final drive against the Bengals that featured the only two fumbles of the last two games for the Jaguars offense.
Not allowing the Ravens any easy points or short fields will be very important.
2. Get to 3rd & Short
Football Outsiders documents everything there is to document in football and analyzes statistics ad nauseum. While the Ravens offense ranks in the top 10 in almost every defensive statistic on FO, they rank 18th and 23rd in "power success" and "stuffed," respectively.
Football Outsiders describes "power success" as:
Percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. Also includes runs on first-and-goal or second-and-goal from the two-yard line or closer.
The Ravens have allowed 67% of runs in such a situation to be successful. That ranks 18th in the NFL.
"Stuffed" is similarly described as:
Percentage of runs where the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage.
The Ravens have "stuffed" 18% of runs, which ranks 23rd.
So while the Ravens are the league's #1 run defense and are the 2nd best in the league at stopping runs up the middle, according to FO, they aren't exactly the best at stopping an offense dead in their tracks. If the Jaguars can get into 3rd & short situations there's a good chance they'll be able to lean on Maurice Jones-Drew to plow ahead for that final yard or two for the first down.
3. Win the Battle of Field Position
The Ravens for the season have started with the ball on their own 31.02 yard line while their opponents have started on the 27.24 yard line. While this might not seem like a tremendous difference, the 3.78 yard net is the 5th best in the NFL.
In comparison, the Jaguars offense have started on their 27.97 yard line while opponents have started on the 31.14 yard line. That -3.17 yard net ranks 27th in the league.
While a difference of three yards of field position is not going to be a huge factor in any game, the average field positions are indicative of a Ravens team that has won the field position battle in most cases, while the Jaguars have lost.
Strong special teams with the return of Montell Owens and Kassim Osgood will be key in winning this battle.