Ravens at Giants Game Preview

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The Ravens are set to take on the New York Giants at Giant Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m.

*BR.com offers a breakdown of Baltimore's Week 11 opponent. *

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** Rankings

Total Offense - 4 (374.7) Total Defense - 3 (264.8)

Rush Offense - 1 (168.9) Rush Defense -7 (87.7)

Pass Offense - 16 (205.8) Pass Defense -2 (177.4)

Points Per Game - 2 (29.1) Points Per Game - 6T (17.8)

Sizing Them Up

The New York Giants, the defending Super Bowl champions, may be playing better at this point in the season than they did last year. Under head coach Tom Coughlin, the Giants (8-1) are ranked as the NFL's best team, according to multiple analysts.

Much of that has to do with the best rushing attack in the league, led by 265-pound bully Brandon Jacobs, who leads the team with 153 carries for 806 yards and nine touchdowns. Jacobs is joined by Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw, and all three backs combined to average 5.3 yards per carry.

Under center, there is Eli Manning, Super Bowl XLII's MVP, who has rangy wideout Plaxico Burress and young tight end Kevin Boss to catch his passes. Manning's only thrown six interceptions, as opposed 14 touchdowns.

But New York's bread-and-butter is its defense, which is known for relentlessly rushing the quarterback with its front four. Defensive ends Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka have combined for 13 sacks, backup Dave Tollefson has 3.5 and defensive tackle Fred Robbins sports 5.5.

Through the pressure on the line, the back end has seen the benefit, as the Giants have the league's second-best pass defense featuring Pro Bowlers Sam Madison and Sammy Knight.

What's Up?

According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, Burress is seeking a breakout game, but he understands the other ways he can help his team.

*"Burress' numbers over the past four games are nothing special - 10 catches for 90 yards and a touchdown - but the Giants won all four, getting at least 200 yards on the ground in three of them."

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Kristie Ackert, a reporter for the New York Daily News, writes that the Giants' defense is wary of Joe Flacco.

"But don't expect them to be admiring him on Sunday. After being held without a sack last week in Philadelphia, the Giants are eager to get a shot at the [Ravens](http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Baltimore Ravens "Baltimore Ravens")' rookie quarterback."

Are there similarities between both squads? Michael Eisen of nygiants.com believes there are.

"The two teams will meet Sunday in Giants Stadium with more similarities than differences. Each has won its last four games. Both own at least a share of the lead in their division – the 8-1 Giants sit alone atop the NFC East, while the 6-3 Ravens are tied with Pittsburgh for first in the AFC North."

Awards

Offensive - I'd give this to Jacobs, who is the driving force behind New York's ground attack. Like in last week's win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Jacobs ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns, his second-straight 100-ayrd game. The Giants are 4-0 this season when Jacobs tops the century mark.

Defensive - Either Tuck or Kiwanuka could get this call, but I'll point out Kiwanuka, who was starting at linebacker last year before Osi Umenyiora was lost to a knee injury in the preseason. Kiwanuka (5.5 sacks) may not lead the Giants to Tuck's 8.5, but he stepped up big-time.

Emerging Star

In the absence of tight end Jeremy Shockey, who was traded to the New Orleans Saints, Kevin Boss has emerged as a talented target. At 6-foot-6, 253 pounds, Boss has great size and has shown impressive hands. The Western Oregon product owns 19 catches for 217 yards and four scores.

Key Matchups

Ravens CB Samari Rolle vs. Giants WR Plaxico Burress

At 6-foot-5, Burress is a matchup nightmare for smaller cornerbacks, so Rolle will have his hands full. But, Rolle is a smart and quick player that can harass Burress all day. Last week, Rolle and the Ravens held big wideout Andre Johnson of the Texans to seven grabs for 66 yards.

Ravens OTs Jared Gaither and Willie Anderson vs. Texans DEs Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka

This is assuming Anderson can play on his sprained ankle, but both Ravens tackles face a challenge with the tenacious pass rushers. The Ravens have done well this year protecting Joe Flacco, New York will probably bring as much pressure as possible. A lot of that will come from the edges.

Quotable

Coughlin on the defensive line's ability to pressure the quarterback and the luxury of not having to send in linebackers or safeties on blitzes:

"We've had good success with pressure from our front four. Then when we've brought some form of dog or blitz, we've added to that, and we've been able to pressure the quarterback to a certain extent. The result being that we've covered better, and we've done a better job of that in the secondary. So it's allowed us to have some flexibility and some freedom, when we do have to cover, that we do have some people that can rush the passer."

"They have a tremendous leader in the middle [in Ray Lewis]. They've got guys who play extremely hard all around him and just make it very difficult for you as an offensive football team. But I go back to us. We've got to worry about our situation and protecting the football because regardless of who we play or when we play them, if we don't get better from that standpoint, we're going to struggle."

Manning on if he gets the sense that teams go after the Giants more now that they are Super Bowl champions:

"I don't think I've noticed anything differently. I think in this league every game is important, and every team you play, you have to be up for it, you have to be mentally and physically ready for it. Because players are too good in this league, teams are too good, where if you're not as prepared and ready as you can be, then you won't have a shot at competing."

Duff's Take

This game is a little easier to predict, I'd say. You know you're going to get two offenses that are built around the run, even more so when you look at each club's three-pronged attack.

You've got two quarterbacks that are poised in the pocket and can make enough throws to get you through a game if the rushing attack isn't clicking. And, you've got two pretty ferocious defenses that get after the quarterback and stop the run.

What does that boil down to? A smashmouth slug-fest that is going to require a lot of ice bags when it's all over.

And that's the type of football the Ravens like to play. Baltimore matches up well against a grind-it-out team like the Giants, Titans or Steelers.

While New York does have talented backups Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs is the best threat to the Ravens' NFL-best streak of 28 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher.

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens will have to be wary of pass-rushers Justin Tuck and Mathais Kiwanuka off the edges. I expect to see some more of that unbalanced line Baltimore has had some success with, bringing Adam Terry in off the bench. And that, of course, is if Willie Anderson plays.

It's pretty simple to figure out how to win this one - just control the line of scrimmage.

But one team will have to crack in the end.

Ed. note: These aren't necessarily the beliefs of the Ravens organization.

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