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Giants vs. Ravens: 5 storylines to follow in Week 16


The Giants dropped to 5-9 after falling to the Cleveland Browns, 20-6, last Sunday night at MetLife Stadium. Colt McCoy got the start for the injured Daniel Jones and threw for 221 yards, but the Giants were able to gain only 288 total yards as they failed to reach the end zone. The Giants' defense was able to limit Cleveland to 106 yards on 30 carries (3.5 avg.).

The Ravens cruised to their ninth victory of the season, defeating the Jaguars on the road, 40-14. Lamar Jackson threw for 243 yards and accounted for four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) while the Ravens ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Baltimore's defense sacked Gardner Minshew five times, including one for a safety.

Here are the top storylines ahead of this Week 16 matchup:

Capitalize in the red zone

The Giants' offense has struggled over the last few weeks, scoring 13 points over their last two games. Against Cleveland, the Giants got the ball into the red zone on each of their first three possessions. However, those three trips resulted in just three total points and the offense failed to reach the red zone again.

"I think frustration is probably the way everyone feels in there because we're well-coached, we work really hard each week, we had a lot of things go on this week that could've been a distraction and I felt like as a group and as an offense we really pushed through that," quarterback Colt McCoy said after last week's loss. "We moved the ball up and down the field and we just have to figure out how to score touchdowns, that's the bottom line."

After getting into the end zone on three of five red zone trips during wins at Seattle and Cincinnati, the Giants have gone 1-of-4 inside the 20-yard linen while losing their next two games.

"I thought we were moving the ball great, we've just got to capitalize whenever we get down into the red zone," wide receiver Sterling Shepard told the media following the loss to the Browns. "You're not going to win many games if you don't come away with points and that's just the bottom line, so we've got to capitalize when we get down there and really lock in."

Baltimore has allowed opponents to score a touchdown on 27 of 41 trips inside the 20 (65.9 percent), the 24th-best mark in the NFL. In last week's win over Jacksonville, the Ravens allowed Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars to get into the end zone on two of their three visits.

Establish the run vs. the Ravens' front

The Giants were unable to get much going on the ground against the Browns in Week 15. Wayne Gallman had his least productive outing since Week 5, gaining just 29 yards on nine carries (3.2 avg.) while not recording a reception. Alfred Morris had more success on the ground, registering 39 yards on seven rushes. As a team, the Giants gained 74 yards on 21 carries (3.5 avg.).

Big Blue's run game topped 100 yards in seven straight games prior to the Week 14 loss against the Cardinals. During that stretch, the Giants averaged nearly 150 per game. But in their last two losses, the Giants have gained just 76 yards on the ground per outing.

"We always want to be balanced," head coach Joe Judge said earlier this week. "That means being able to run or pass when we need to. It doesn't mean 50/50 run or pass. We want to improve in all aspects, offense, defense and the kicking game at this point. We've had opportunities we have to capitalize on. In those situations, we have to make sure we put the players in the right position.

Baltimore ranks 10th in the league in rushing yards (109.9 yards) and touchdowns allowed (12). Last week, the Jaguars were held to 62 yards on 22 carries (2.8 avg.). Standout rookie running back James Robinson only gained 35 yards on 16 rush attempts (2.2 avg.). However, the Ravens allowed Cleveland to rush for 138 yards and four touchdowns in Week 14.

Protect the football

Over the last two games, the Giants have reverted back to some of their early-season tendencies. They fumbled six times and lost three, all of which came against Arizona.

Baltimore is tied for 10th in the league with 20 takeaways. However, those numbers don't do the Ravens' defense justice when it comes to turnovers. John Harbaugh's team has forced a league-high 25 fumbles this season, just one behind their franchise record (set in 2000). Marlon Humphrey has eight forced fumbles this season, three more than anyone else in the league. The Ravens also rank second in the NFL with 12 fumble recoveries. Marcus Peters has recorded four forced fumbles and three interceptions in 13 games.

"Talking about their defense, Wink (Don Martindale) does a great job of really spinning the dial," the Giants head coach said on Wednesday. "It's all about the pressure with these guys. He manages to have a lot of combinations of blitzes and pressures throughout the game. Everyone gets a swing of the bat, as we say with them. It's corners, it's safeties, it's nickels, it's linebackers. It's one at a time, it's two at a time, it's all of them coming. They'll play cover zero and then they'll drop into max coverage and change it up on you right there so you have to be alert. But it's all about communicating pre-snap, and you have to go ahead and make sure you're playing on one page as a unit. They do a great job of spinning the dial."

Slow down league's top rushing attack

The Ravens are averaging 172.7 rushing yards per game, 5.2 yards per carry and 32.9 rush attempts per game, all of which are tops in the NFL. Their 21 rushing touchdowns are tied for the second in the NFL, one behind the Saints. Running backs Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins have each rushed for over 560 yards with six touchdowns, but it's the rushing production out of the quarterback that separates the Ravens from the rest of the league.

"This is a physical team," Judge said on Wednesday. "It all obviously starts with the quarterback. This guy is a different type of player in the league. You've asked me a lot the last few weeks about mobile quarterbacks and is there a transition. I think this guy is a unicorn in terms of how he can play and how 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."

Lamar Jackson is the league's reigning MVP, and the third-year quarterback is putting together another strong campaign in 2020. Jackson leads the Ravens, along with all quarterbacks, with 828 rushing yards, good for 12th in the NFL. Over their last three games, the Ravens are averaging 228 rushing yards per game, due in part to Jackson's dominant play. The young QB is averaging just over 10 carries per game and a league-leading 7.9 yards per try over that span.

"I think when it comes down to him, it comes down to being disciplined and fundamentally sound," Judge said about Jackson. "You have to be able to tackle in space, that's the biggest thing. We played them last year and I told the team this morning, the thing I came away from that game saying was I didn't realize he was that fast. You see him on tape running away from guys, you know he's fast, but when you see guys in person and you watch them athletically up close, that's sometimes when you have to realize that this guy's a lot better than I thought he was on tape and you have a tremendous amount of respect for him on tape."

Entering Week 16, Patrick Graham's defense has surrendered just 101.8 rushing yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry, both of which rank sixth in the league. The 12 rushing touchdowns allowed is tied for the 10th-fewest in the NFL. Going up against Cleveland's No. 3 ranked rushing attack last week, the Giants held the Browns to an average of 3.5 yards on 30 carries. The talented RB duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt were held to just 71 yards on 22 attempts (3.2 avg.).

Limit Baltimore's pass-catchers

Jackson's 9.2 yards per pass attempt is atop the league while his 120.6 QBR over the last three games ranks second over that span. In those three games, he has six passing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns to lead the Ravens to an incredible 33.3 points per game.

Jackson has been great when using his legs to extend plays. Over the last three games, when given 4+ seconds to throw, Jackson has a perfect 158.3 QBR. Having time to find an open receiver has helped his top pass-catchers put up impressive numbers in recent weeks. Marquise Brown has either caught a touchdown or topped 95 receiving yards in each of the last four games with a total of 17 receptions for 272 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Mark Andrews has at least five receptions and 60 receiving yards in each of his last four games, totaling 22 receptions for 301 yards and two touchdowns. Since the start of the 2019 season, Andrews leads all tight ends with 17 touchdown receptions. Willie Snead and Myles Boykin also have three touchdowns apiece this season.

"When you talk about this quarterback, I'm sure everyone every week says we have to eliminate this guy's plays or limit how he makes plays," Judge told reporters. "The fact is, you just have to tie it back into fundamentals. He's going to have runs. You have to do a good job tackling in space. He's going to throw the ball down the field. You have to play in phase with the receivers and try to eliminate the explosive plays down the field. Greg does a great job of scheming teams up.

"Like I said initially, it's all going to come through the run game at first. But that's going to tie into the pass game, the play actions. Then if Lamar can extend it with his legs, which he's obviously very, very capable of doing, he can go ahead and really give you headaches, either by pulling it down and running it or throwing the thing over your head down the field."

The Giants' pass defense has done a great job of keeping opponents out of the end zone. The unit ranks ninth with 22.2 points allowed per game, while the 20 passing touchdowns surrendered are the sixth-fewest in the league. A big reason for this has been the defense's success in the red zone. The Giants have allowed touchdowns on just 53.1 percent of opponents' trips into the red zone, ranking fourth in the NFL. Last week, Baker Mayfield threw for two TDs and 297 yards, the most the Giants have allowed since Week 9. But that production came without James Bradberry on the field, as the Giants' top corner missed this contest after being placed on the COVID-19 list. Bradberry has since been activated and will be back on the field against Baltimore.

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