By Steve Silverman
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At one point, Sunday’s road finale with the Baltimore Ravens looked like the most challenging game on the Giants’ tough end-of-season schedule.
The Ravens are a playoff team once again, but they have lost three straight games and have plenty of problems of their own.
They may be the perfect opponent for the up-and-down Giants to get well against. If they can come away with the win in Baltimore, they will be able to punch their playoff ticket in the final week of the season against the hapless Philadelphia Eagles.
The Ravens have perhaps the second-best running back in football in Ray Rice, but because the Ravens were not using Rice properly, they parted company with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron earlier this month.
Getting rid of an offensive coordinator is a pretty unusual move for a team with designs on getting to the Super Bowl, but head coach John Harbaugh couldn’t abide Cameron’s play-calling any more. When Cameron learned that his responsibilities were being pulled, he simply suggested that the Ravens no longer needed him and walked away from the job.
For years, the Ravens have used their offense as a complementary piece while they waited for their defense to get things done.
That defense has long been one of the best in the game, led by future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. But the Ravens no longer have that defense.
Ray Lewis has been out since early in the season with a torn triceps in his right arm. There’s a chance he could play this Sunday, but his right arm is now noticeably smaller than his left and he would not be the same kind of player he once was.
The Ravens have fallen to 25th in the league in defense this year. They are 26th against the run, which is simply a shocking development. The Ravens used to be the most ferocious run defense in the league and Giants fans still have awful memories of the 2000 Ravens that defeated the Giants 34-7 in Super Bowl XXXV.
That Ravens’ defense was comparable to the 1985 Bears. When Giants quarterback Kerry Collins came off the field following that game, he was completely pale. The blood had drained out of his face after facing that Baltimore defense.
Collins can say that fear was not a factor in that game, but I was three feet in front of him when he answered questions from the media after that game. He was relieved to be out of the line of fire and he was drained of all emotion.
The Ravens haven’t played that way in a long time and this year they have played lousy defense. Reed still can read a quarterback and pick off a pass, but Eli Manning should be able to look Reed off and throw in the opposite direction.
The Ravens have not put it together on offense either. Despite the presence of Rice and quarterback Joe Flacco and a solid crew of receivers, they haven’t had a consistent offensive game since a 55-20 win over the Raiders in Week 10.
This won’t be an easy game for the Giants, but they are catching a team that is going in the wrong direction.
The Giants have been trending downward, but they have had excellent efforts against the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints in recent weeks.
They have shown they can dial it up after down efforts.
This has to be a maximum-effort game for New York or the Giants could find themselves in the same place as the Jets when the playoffs start.
Are the Ravens the perfect opponents for a Giants team with a lot to prove? Sound off below…