|Survival of the fittest: Injured Jets face limping Ravens|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 13 September 2007 12:14|
The New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens have plenty in common. On a neutral field, under different circumstances, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis might deem a matchup between the teams to be a tossup.
But Baltimore is at home and coming off an error-filled performance in Cincinnati. So, when asked if he considered the possibility of starting the season with two consecutive defeats, Lewis smiled knowingly.
``I don't know one person in our organization, as well as our city, that's talking about going 0-2,'' Lewis said. ``The bottom line is the Jets pulled a bad draw. That's just the way it comes down. We're a very dominant team at home, and dropping that game the way we did, making a lot of mistakes - there's no way you're going to turn the ball over six times again.''
Steve McNair was guilty of four of those turnovers, and there was some question whether the quarterback would be healthy enough to rebound against New York. McNair left Monday night's opener with a groin injury, and his availability for Sunday was expected to be game-time decision.
``Steve is OK, but you could see on some of the throws (against Cincinnati) that he wasn't getting the push. That's why some of the throws took off on him,'' Ravens coach Brian Billick said. ``That's going to be the litmus test. He's a tough guy. If it's just pain, that's a no-brainer. But can he throw and push off it comfortably and be functional? That's the big issue.''
McNair intends to play unless his presence on the field would be a detriment to the Ravens. If he can't go, Kyle Boller will start in his place.
The Jets are ready for either one.
``We have seen both of them and we know what they can do,'' Pro Bowl linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. ``Steve can make all of the throws and Kyle can make all of the throws as well. Kyle is a little bit more athletic at this stage than Steve is.''
Ah, but there's something to be said for experience, which explains why the Ravens are eager to have McNair as their starter and why New York hopes to have injured quarterback Chad Pennington instead of untested Kellen Clemens.
Pennington hurt his right ankle when he was sacked by Jarvis Green during the third quarter of the Jets' 38-14 loss to the New England Patriots. He expected to play Sunday, although coach Eric Mangini held off issuing Pennington a clean bill of health.
The Jets have reason to be concerned about the state of an offense that sputtered against the Patriots, but their first item of business Sunday will be to stop Ravens running back Willis McGahee. If McGahee enjoys the kind of success he's used to against New York, then it won't matter whether it's McNair or Boller handing him the ball.
During his time with the Buffalo Bills, McGahee ran for 705 yards and three touchdowns in six games against New York. This will be his second game with Baltimore after joining the Ravens in an offseason trade.
Can he get the same old results wearing a new uniform?
``He killed us a bunch of times,'' Vilma said. ``Strong guy, fast guy. He's very explosive. It's all the those you things you want in a back and that you hate to see in a back. We have to get after him.''
The Jets, in turn, hope to unleash Thomas Jones, who was held to 42 yards against New England - in part because New York was forced to abandon the running game after the Patriots began to pull away.
``He's a new back to the Jets, but we have a history with him. He was able to get 100 yards on us in Chicago a couple years ago,'' Ravens linebacker Bart Scott said. ``He's a great runner. He can bounce outside and cut on a dime, but also he can step up between the tackles and he's a strong, hard runner.''
When Jones gets past the line of scrimmage, he can expect to see Lewis waiting for him. Lewis strained his upper right arm on the Ravens' first defensive first play against the Bengals, but finished with 14 tackles anyway.
His arm still hurts, but he's not about to let that keep him from getting the Ravens to 1-1.
``It's like I told my mom: 'It's just one arm. I got a whole other body left,''' Lewis said. ``Then I was like, 'Doc, can I hurt it anymore?' He was like, 'No.' I said, 'OK, it's done then. I'm playing.' As long as I've got my teammates, I'm good. We can get through anything.''