MNF Matchup: Ravens @ JaguarsMonday, October 24, 2011
Monday Night Football
Baltimore @ Jacksonville
"They are the best defense I've seen in years," ESPN's Ron Jaworski said of the Ravens this week. "This year, they've taken it to another level." Jaws went so far as to suggest that the 2011 Ravens defense has approached the level of 2000, when Baltimore won the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at quarterback. The Ravens field a top-seven unit versus both the run and pass, presenting Week 7's biggest mismatch against Jacksonville's 32nd-ranked offense. Baltimore should control this game from start to finish, dominating time of possession and limiting the impact of all Jacksonville skill-position players. Maurice Jones-Drew is the only Jaguar worth a serious look, and even he's risky. MJD's passing-game contributions are way down this year, and the Ravens have already kept Arian Foster (15-49-0), Chris Johnson (24-53-0), Rashard Mendenhall (12-45-0), and Shonn Greene (10-23-0) all out of the end zone. If you're keeping score at home, those backs have a combined 2.79 yards-per-carry average against Baltimore.
This game has Week 7's lowest over-under at a paltry 39 points. If Baltimore's shutdown defense wasn't reason enough to sit your Jaguars, the low-scoring projection should be. ... Mike Thomas is the No. 41 fantasy receiver, struggling in his conversion from slot to featured wideout. Thomas' yards-per-catch average has dropped from 2010, he has one touchdown in five games, and his yardage has slipped in three straight weeks. ... Contending with Dallas Clark to be this year's top tight end bust, Marcedes Lewis figures to spend this game on the line blocking Terrell Suggs. Lewis is averaging 23.2 yards per game, hasn't scored yet this season, and has no chemistry with Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert targeted Lewis a team-high eight times in Week 6, but the duo hooked up just twice for 29 yards. ... The Jags brought back Mike Sims-Walker this week after he was cut by the Rams. Over the past two years, Sims-Walker has been exposed as a JAG ("Just a Guy"). He may replace Jason Hill as a starter, but won't save this putrid passing offense. ... Gabbert has done well to avoid turnovers for the most part, but the coaching staff has shown little confidence in him. They were still calling run plays down by two touchdowns against the Steelers last week.
The Jaguars opened the year defending the run well, but this is hardly an imposing matchup for Ray Rice. Over the past three weeks, Jacksonville has surrendered 439 yards and three rushing touchdowns on 97 carries (4.53 YPC). Even if the per-play average were still low, the Jaguars are falling behind early in games, letting opponents take the air out of the ball, and watching them rack up rushing attempts. Rice is the No. 4 overall back in fantasy points per game and an elite RB1. ... Anquan Boldin racked up season bests in receptions (8) and yards (132) last week and figures to give the Jags fits because he works the middle of the field, where Jacksonville's Cover 2 is most vulnerable. Boldin has continued to see significant playing time in the slot this season. ... The Jaguars are allowing an average of over 80 yards per week to tight ends, the most in football. If I'm picking between tight ends in this game, I'm going with Ed Dickson over Marcedes Lewis.
The Jags have a top-eight pass defense, allowing just 6.6 yards per pass attempt and the NFL's third fewest 20-plus yard completions among teams that have played six games. It's a scheme thing; the defense is designed to limit long passing plays. This all adds up to a poor matchup for one-trick pony deep threat Torrey Smith. While Smith is a full-time player and did earn himself some credibility with 84 yards in Week 6, keep in mind that he only saw five targets, catching three, and got 61% of the yardage on a 51-yard bomb against easily-beaten Texans CB Kareem Jackson. Smith isn't going to be a heavily targeted player in the Ravens' offense, so he'll require big plays to maintain respectable production. ... Joe Flacco has topped 225 passing yards in two games so far. While there are worse fantasy options out there, Flacco just doesn't offer a high ceiling on a weekly basis. Hopefully, you found a quarterback with more upside in Sunday's games.
Score Prediction: Ravens 24, Jaguars 10