Game Preview: Battle of the No. 1s

f016590afe2e49b4bdb39fe310daede2.jpg


PLEASE NOTE:The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

After Thursday's prime-time matchup in the Georgia Dome, the next time the Ravens can see the Atlanta Falcons would be in the Super Bowl.

Several analysts have named these two combatants the best teams in their respective conferences, and a championship meeting is a strong possibility.

It's hard to deny the playoff atmosphere surrounding this game, much like the Ravens' Monday Night Football opener against the New York Jets.

"I think Thursday night is going to be a great atmosphere," said running back Ray Rice. "I know our guys are excited. We've played on Monday night, and this is the first Thursday night opener. I don't want to say it feels like Week 1, but it definitely feels good to know that we're on a short week, and we have a challenge ahead of us.

"Our team, we relish challenges. And it's definitely going to be a great game between us and Atlanta."

The NFL Network definitely picked a pair of the league's hottest teams to kick off its series of exclusive showcases.

Baltimore is 6-2 with wins over the similarly 6-2 Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Falcons (6-2), who are unbeaten at home, own a quality victory over the defending Super Bowl-champion New Orleans Saints and are on a two-game winning streak.

In addition to the Ravens' level of excitement – which helps temper the fatigue of getting through a three-day turnaround from last Sunday's Dolphins game – there is also a high level of respect for their upcoming opponent.

Game Preview
Right Click for Full Screen Option

"It's not as if we don't know what's going on [around the league]," said linebacker Ray Lewis. "We know Atlanta is playing at a very, very high level in the NFC right now, and we're playing at a high level in the AFC. So, we know what's coming. And this is that side and our side, but they've got a lot of talent.

"Now you kind of see, playing against this talented offense, matching up against our defense, vice versa, and things that don't usually happen. So, you really have to study a little bit more. With the short week, that becomes harder."

The Ravens are expecting a hard-fought game, one that could come down to the final minute. While Atlanta's strength is offense, which is tied for fifth-best in the NFL, the Ravens' defense (ninth) is their calling card.

If the Ravens want to run the football, which they do, the Falcons boast the NFL's sixth-stingiest rush defense.

And of course, there is the hotly-anticipated duel between Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan, two members of the 2008 quarterback class.

"It's a matchup thing," Rice noted. "I know it's not going to be one of [those] games where it's going to be won in the first quarter. It's going to be one of the fourth quarter games.

"We're just looking forward to hopefully coming out of this game 7-2."

If the Ravens do leave what should be a raucous Georgia Dome crowd at 7-2, it will mark a solid start to the second half of the season.

The playoffs are a long way down the road, but the Ravens are expecting that type of environment.

"It's exciting to play," said Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh, who owns a 5-2 record in prime-time contests. "Our guys will be thrilled to be the only game [on Thursday]. It'll be a great environment; it's going to be loud, it's going to be at their place.

"You know, our guys are very comfortable with that."
3 Things For a Ravens Win

    • Wrangle RoddyAtlanta Head Coach Mike Smith said he expects wideout Roddy White (knee) to play Thursday, giving Ryan one of the top receiving targets in the NFL. Already this season, the two-time Pro Bowler owns 58 catches for 796 yards and two touchdowns. The Ravens can't let White break free, as they've been burned by elite receivers in the past. Whether Fabian Washington, Lardarius Webb or Josh Wilson starts opposite Chris Carr, the entire group needs to know where this game-breaker is, with some help from safety Ed Reed, as well.
*   **Take Care of the Football**Atlanta is fourth in the NFL with a plus-7 turnover margin, with an impressive 13 interceptions distributed among 10 different players. Flacco hasn't thrown a pick since Week 4, and he's thrown a personal-best 129 passes since losing an interception – although a few have glanced off opponents' hands. It will be imperative that he continues his clean streak and not give the Falcons a chance at a short field.   
*   **Stay Strong in the Red Zone**In Atlanta's last eight trips inside the red zone, they've scored seven touchdowns. Getting seven points instead of three is critical for both teams, and one of the Ravens' strengths is shutting down that area. Baltimore has only allowed eight touchdowns in 21 tries this season, good for fourth-stingiest in the league. On the other side of the ball, Baltimore will look to improve its offensive red-zone performance against Miami. The Ravens were 1-of-7 in their trips to the red zone.

Ravens                          Category                           Falcons

6-2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2008 Record . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-2

Won 2. . . . . . . . . . . . Longest Streak . . . . . . . . . . . .Won 2

  1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Points Scored . . . . . . . . . . . . .196
  1. . . . . . . . . . . . Touchdowns Scored . . . . . . . . . . .21
  1. . . . . . . . Rushing Touchdowns Scored . . . . . . . .7
  1. . . . . . . . Passing Touchdowns Scored . . . . . . . .13
  1. . . . . . . . . . Touchdowns on Returns . . . . . . . . . .1
  1. . . . . . . . . . . . . Points Against . . . . . . . . . . . . .154
  1. . . . . . . . . . . Touchdowns Allowed . . . . . . . . . . .19
  1. . . . . . . . Rushing Touchdowns Allowed . . . . . . . .3
  1. . . . . . . . Passing Touchdowns Allowed . . . . . . . .13
  1. . . . . . . . . . . TDs Allowed by Return . . . . . . . . . . .3

+1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Turnover Ratio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .+7

42.9%. . . . . . . . . Red Zone TD Pct. For . . . . . . . . .56.7%

38.1%. . . . . . . . Red Zone TD Pct. Against . . . . . . .40.0%

21.4. . . . . . . . . . . . . KOR Avg. For . . . . . . . . . . . . .24.3

25.4. . . . . . . . . . . . KOR Avg. Against . . . . . . . . . . .23.1

5.8. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . PR Avg. For . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11.9

8.2. . . . . . . . . . . . . PR Avg. Against . . . . . . . . . . . ..15.8

Ravens

Falcons

Category

Stats

Rank

Stats

Rank

Total Offense

348

15

370.1

5(t)

Rush Offense

118.8

11

136.5

6(t)

Pass Offense

229.3

15

233.6

11(t)

Points/Game

21.9

15

24.5

10

Total Defense

310.8

9

346.4

21(t)

Rush Defense

104.8

13

95.9

6

Pass Defense

206

9

250.5

26

Points/Game

17.4

6

19.3

10

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising