By Will Strome of NFL Weather.com
NFLWeather.com forecasts a 20% showers at kickoff with rain expected all week heading into the weekend. A mild east coast holiday season means a temperature that could top out as warm as 75. But, whether or not it rains during the game itself, the grass surface will be plenty slick for both dueling power backs.Not long ago did it seem like the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants were a lock for the playoffs and the division title frontrunners. Now, their commanding leads have slowly dwindled down to dire straights where both desperately need of a win heading into Sunday’s clash at M&T Bank Stadium. And they’ll have to battle through the December downpour in order to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Can the Ravens get the ball to Ray Rice in Week 16?
The defending champions still have yet to announce whether or not Ahmad Bradshaw will be fit enough to grind it out. In a soggy slugfest where possessing the ball and avoiding turnovers are the top two priorities, Bradshaw is the ideal option. Unfortunately he won’t play until doctors clear him but his presence was sorely missed in the team’s 34-0 disaster in Atlanta a week ago. Rookie David Wilson will need to find his footing early if Bradshaw is a no go against a defensive unit that allows over 130 rushing yards per game.
Last weekend following the loss, New York was forced to sacrifice a share of the summit of the NFC East with two fellow rivals. With three teams atop the division with 8-5 records, there’s no room to slip up. But it’s not often the Giants do, especially in the rain. According to NFLWeather.com Historical Analytics, in rain games on the road the team is 2-1 over the last two seasons and 4-1 overall since 2009.
But the Ravens in the rain are just as strong. Despite dropping their last rain game at home to the Denver Broncos a week ago, 34-17, the team is 10-0 overall since 2009 and 8-0 at home according to the database. So if the precipitation can have a positive effect on the team’s current slump, an AFC North title is only a week away.
Even though they’re 0-3 in as many games, a bright spot will be the addition of Torrey Smith back into the receiving corps following his concussion. But like the Giants, Baltimore will look to keep the ball on the ground against a defense that surrenders over 123 yards on the ground a game. That could mean big things for Ray Rice who’s racked up over 330 yards in his previous four games.
Whoever controls the clock and extends drives without neglecting the ground game should take this one in the rain. Both Eli Manning and Joe Flacco will be expected to convert crucial third downs but quarterback play shouldn’t be much of a factor on early downs in a heavy downpour. Establishing the run will inevitably lead to long ball and play action potential late in the second half but a steady and consistent ground game is the solid plan for maximizing on the few scoring opportunities each will encounter.
Momentum is certainly something both teams desperately need and have been lacking for a number of weeks. According to NFLWeather’s Historical Analytics, the Ravens are 1-1 in home rain games this year while the Giants are 2-1 as they beat the 49ers in San Francisco at “Candle-Lake Park.” But a win on Sunday will all but wash away the negativities from the weeks’ prior and put the playoff path into perspective. The other team will be left wondering what could have been. A wildcard atmosphere on the rainy Chesapeake during the winter holidays, ‘tis the season! There are a lot of variables in this game. Enjoy the watching but place your bets elsewhere.