EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Daunting challenges rooted in history, statistics and athleticism will greet the Giants when they face the Baltimore Ravens tomorrow in M&T Bank Stadium.
The Giants haven't won in Baltimore since Sept. 15, 1963, when they defeated the Colts, 37-28. Okay, that's misleading because they've since played there just twice, but both of those games – also played in December – were eminently forgettable. In 2004, rookie Eli Manning had an 0.0 passer rating and was replaced in a game for performance reasons for the only time in his career in a 37-14 loss. Eight years ago, the Giants lost, 33-14, as the Ravens gained 533 yards (309 passing, 224 on the ground), and owned the ball for more than 39 minutes. And we don't need to discuss what happened when the teams met in Super Bowl XXXV 20 years ago.
Now the Giants are 5-9 and hoping to end a two-game losing streak in which they scored just 13 total points. They can win the NFC East title if they defeat the Ravens and Dallas and the Washington Football Team loses at least one of its final two games. But a Giants loss coupled with a Washington victory tomorrow will make Washington the division champions.
"Not to think about the playoffs or anything like that, but we're basically treating it like the playoffs right now," defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. "We know what's at stake and we know that we have to win these last two games basically to go to the playoffs. Starting now is basically our playoffs. That's kind of how we're treating this game."
View rare photos of the history between the Giants and Ravens ahead of their Week 16 matchup.
Baltimore, which has defeated the three other NFC East teams, is 9-5, a record perhaps skewered by a COVID-influenced three-game losing streak that forced them to play a Wednesday night game in Pittsburgh without several players, notably quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Ravens scored 121 points in defeating Dallas, Cleveland and Jacksonville the last three weeks.
"Obviously, they're getting guys back now healthy," Giants coach Joe Judge said. "They're really hitting their stride. This is a very good team. It's going to take everything we have to prepare for them. We have to have our best on Sunday."
Baltimore will make that difficult. The Ravens are the only team in the top six in the league in both points scored (fourth at 28.8 a game) and points allowed (sixth at 20.5). Baltimore leads the NFL in both rushing yardage per game (172.7) and per carry (5.2). Defensively, the Ravens rank ninth by allowing 343.7 yards a game and their third-down defense is tied for fourth (allowing conversions on just 36.6% of opponents attempts).
The Ravens have plenty of incentive; they've not clinched a playoff berth and could miss the postseason at 11-5 if they don't get help.
Safety Logan Ryan last season played for the Tennessee Titans when they took leads of 14 and 22 points on their way to a 22-12 victory against the top-seeded Ravens in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game in Baltimore.
"The reason why my team had success against the Ravens last year is that we came out, we started fast, we got a lead," Ryan said. "I think when you get a lead on the Ravens it makes them play behind, it changes their defense and their offensive schemes a little bit from playing from behind. They're built to play from ahead because they're really good at running the ball, they're really aggressive on defense and you want to get those guys behind on the scoreboard early. So, starting fast is a major point for us and be ready to go on Sunday, believe you can win the game. Be ready to go and start fast is definitely a key point for us."
The Ravens tied the NFL high with seven players selected to the Pro Bowl. One of those excluded was Jackson, the league's most valuable player in 2019. In 13 games, Jackson has completed 64.8% of his passes and thrown for 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He leads all NFL quarterbacks with a team-high 828 rushing yards and has scored seven touchdowns on the ground. After running for 1,206 yards last year, Jackson is the only quarterback in NFL history with at least 800 yards rushing in consecutive seasons.
Jackson is 9-0 in starts against NFC teams.
"I think this guy is a unicorn in terms of how he can play," Judge said. "He really makes explosive plays with his legs, along with the arm strength and the plays down the field he's capable of making right there.
"This player is explosive. He's very elusive, he's extremely fast, he has great running instincts, he has very good balance and body control, he's tough to take down, he breaks a lot of tackles. He can get to his top speed very quickly, but then also decelerate and changes direction at will. This is a guy, he's a much different type of player at that position than really any other quarterback I can think of in the league. Obviously, he's having a tremendous amount of success with what he does."
After facing Seattle's Russell Wilson and Arizona's Kyler Murray this month, Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has had to devise a plan for another dynamic, multi-dimensional quarterback in Jackson.
"He's different, he's very different," Graham said. "…This guy is so fast, he's so big, he's so dynamic with the ball. When you sell out for the run game, he will throw the ball over your head and it will be a touchdown with the targets they have. With Hollywood (Marquise Brown) and (Mark) Andrews. It's a unique challenge. I'm looking forward to it. Guys have to get ready for it. It's going to be fun. We just have to see if we can execute."
Their hopes of staying in the division race might depend on it.
"The weather's cold, most teams are physical this time of year, most teams run the ball, most teams want to stop the run," Ryan said. "It's really about executing your details, executing the game, being good situationally and when we tend to do that, we tend to win the game. To us, it's about cleaning up our details and executing and getting ready to play the Ravens."
*Wide receiver Golden Tate will not play because of a calf injury. Tate is fourth on the team with 35 catches for 388 yards. He has two touchdown receptions.
Quarterback Daniel Jones (hamstring/ankle), linebacker Blake Martinez (ankle) and cornerback Darnay Holmes (knee) are questionable.
*The "Bud Light Giants Gameday" radio pregame show will begin at 11:30 a.m. on WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM and will stream live on Giants.com, the Giants mobile app, and "Giants TV" streaming app.
"Giants Postgame Live" presented by Mercedes-Benz can be heard immediately after the game - also on WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM and streaming on Giants.com, the Giants mobile app, and "Giants TV" streaming app.