Too bad the Ravens and Jaguars aren't still in the same division. This game would be a nice twice-a-year addition to the drama of last April's draft.
You remember what happened. The Ravens attempted to make a trade with Minnesota up to the seventh spot in the first round, one spot ahead of the Jaguars. The Ravens' intent was to trade up and draft Byron Leftwich, and the trade was actually consummated but the clock expired and the Jaguars moved ahead of the Vikings.
The Jaguars took Leftwich. Twelve picks later, still seeking that franchise quarterback for their future, the Ravens drafted Kyle Boller.
"Our intention with the seventh pick, we made no pretence with that, was to get Leftwich," Ravens coach Brian Billick told Jacksonville reporters this week. "That's who we would have picked had we orchestrated the deal."
The sidebar material to this drama is compelling. The Jaguars had hired James "Shack" Harris as their personnel boss only three months earlier. Harris came to the Jaguars from, of course, the Ravens. He, no doubt, had the Ravens' board. He knew who they wanted. He took who they wanted.
So, the drama now is, which team got lucky? Will time prove Leftwich was the better pick? Or will time favor Boller? Or neither?
Yeah, this one would've been fun to watch twice a year. We'll get our first look this Sunday, as Leftwich and Boller square off in Baltimore, but they're both rookies and it's too early to come to any decisions, and Boller clearly has a better supporting cast.
Now, here's 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Ravens.
- Stop Jamal Lewis--It's that simple. Stop Lewis and win; don't stop him and lose. Lewis had a big lead in the NFL rushing standings heading into this past Sunday's action. He's the Ravens' workhorse and their big-play guy and is averaging more yards per rush than Boller is averaging yards per pass.
- The other Lewis, too--Yeah, middle linebacker Ray Lewis is still the heart and soul of the Ravens defense and opposing offenses still have to account for his presence. But there are whispers Lewis isn't the player he was a few years ago.
- Win the battle of the rookies--Leftwich vs. Boller. Given the circumstances of each team's dependence on their rookie quarterback, the Jags need Leftwich to claim a decided edge.
- Be like the Bengals--Cincinnati found a way to beat the Ravens. The formula? The Bengals forced Boller into three turnovers and held Jamal Lewis to 101 yards rushing. That'll work every time.
- Trust in Del Rio--Let's not forget that Jack Del Rio was an assistant in Baltimore under Brian Billick. Del Rio knows how to attack the Ravens. His players need to trust in their coach's gameplan. Apparently, Marvin Lewis knew how to beat the Ravens, too.
- Make 'em throw the ball--Because the Ravens can't. They are at the bottom of the league rankings in every meaningful statistical passing category, including third-down efficiency. Field position, down and distance and getting a lead will be important factors in forcing the Ravens to abandon the run. That's what you want to do.
- Be aggressive--The Ravens play it very close to the vest. They are in a very mediocre division that promotes a play-not-to-lose philosophy, and they lack weapons in the passing game to open up their offense. Don't play their game. This is a good time for the Jaguars to open it up on offense. Make them play that kind of game.
- Kick field goals--The Jaguars would've won in Baltimore last season had they kicked field goals instead of going for it four times on fourth down.
- Don't back down--Led by Ray Lewis, the Ravens are still a big trash-talkin' team. Intimidation is a big part of their game and it's important not to allow that to happen.
- Stay away from the crab--The Jaguars can't afford to lose anybody to bad crab the night before the game. They'll need everyone on their roster come Sunday afternoon.