Not many would have anticipated that the New York Giants would be part of a marquee game conversation during the 2022 NFL season, but they find themselves in a highly intriguing matchup against the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday. New York continued their winning ways last week in London, beating the Green Bay Packers 27-22. Baltimore played a game right down to the wire against the Cincinnati Bengals last week, as kicker Justin Tucker nailed a field goal as time expired to give the Ravens a 19-17 victory.
Let’s go over a few keys to watch in this showdown.
The Wink Martindale Bowl
It’s not often that an assistant coach is featured in a breakdown of an upcoming game, but the presence of Don “Wink” Martindale on the Giants sideline going up against his former team figures to be important. Martindale spent the last four seasons as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator, and was plucked away from Baltimore’s staff to serve in the same capacity in New York.
There are a couple reasons why this is important. Baltimore’s offense has spent years practicing against Martindale’s defenses, so they should have a pretty good understanding of how he might try to stop them on Sunday. It will be interesting to see whether the defensive coordinator tries to switch things up to confuse his former employer.
Additionally, Martindale’s style of coaching lends itself to heavy blitzing pressure. Coming into Week 6, New York leads the NFL in blitz percentage at just over 43%.
Saquon Barkley’s Darkhorse MVP Candidacy
While it is often accurately stated that quarterbacks are the most important player on a football team, it is hard to imagine the Giants being where they are without the sensational play of running back Saquon Barkley. Many questioned whether the former second overall draft pick would ever get back to his prime physical condition, but it looks like New York is finally getting back the player who they thought would be the cornerstone of their offense.
In five games this season, Barkley is averaging a robust 5.5 yards per carry, which would be a career high if he was able to maintain that level of production. There’s a chance he could eclipse his rushing statistics from a year ago against Baltimore, which shows just how far he’s come. As New York’s receiving corps continues to battle injuries, Barkley might also be in line to catch more passes.
Ravens Running Game Improvement
The Ravens have featured one of the more potent rushing attacks in the NFL in the last few years. Much of that can be attributed to the dynamic athleticism of quarterback Lamar Jackson, but running backs playing behind Jackson have also benefitted from lanes created by the threat of the signal caller running.
Baltimore has been cautious in their handling of J.K. Dobbins, who has returned after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason last year. Dobbins looked solid against the Bengals, handling eight carries for 44 yards.
If Martindale is going to continue to rely on the blitz, there will be opportunities for the Ravens’ rushing attack to reel off big gains if they can get past the first wave of defenders.