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Giants-Ravens storylines: 6 things to watch as Giants host Baltimore

Surprising Giants aim for another upset

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

The surprising New York Giants try to run their record to 5-1 on Sunday when they host the 3-2 Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET/CBS). Let’s check out some of the storylines this week.

Underdogs again!

The Giants are 4-1. They have made believers out of folks who do NFL Power Rankings, moving up to No. 11 in our aggregated rankings. Las Vegas oddsmakers, though, are not yet jumping aboard the Giants’ bandwagon.

The Giants are 5-point underdogs, per SB Nation partner DraftKings Sportsbook.

Even though the Giants have victories over the two No. 1 seeds in the 2021 NFL playoffs (AFC - Tennessee Titans | NFL — Green Bay Packers) the lack of belief is understandable. The Giants won games against Tennessee and Green Bay when, on paper, their roster isn’t as good. Are they doing it with smoke and mirrors? Is what they are doing sustainable?

A victory over the Ravens would go a long way toward legitimizing what the Giants have done thus far.

Wink and Lamar

I mentioned it on Tuesday, but there is nothing more fascinating about Sunday’s game than the matchup between Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Until coming to the Giants, Martindale was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator during the first four years of Jackson’s career. Martindale likely knows Jackson better than any coordinator in the sport. Jackson has likely seen every trick in Martindale’s arsenal at some point during a Baltimore practice.

This is going to be interesting. How will Martindale try to take away tight end Mark Andrews, clearly Jackson’s favorite passing target? How will Martindale structure the pass rush to minimize the damage Jackson will do when he escapes the pocket and freelances? How will the Giants combat the Ravens’ multi-faceted running game?

This could be a great chess match between Martindale, Jackson, and Baltimore offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

Passing fancy?

If the Giants are ever going to get their passing game cranked up, this might be their opportunity.

The Giants are 31st in the NFL in passing yards per game (154.2), 26th in completions per game (17.8), 29th in yards per passing attempt (6.4), 31st in yards per completion (8.4), and 30th in passing first downs per game (8.0).

The Giants’ passing attack did show signs of life Sunday against the Packers, with Daniel Jones throwing for a season-high 217 yards while completing 21 of 27 pass attempts.

This week, the Giants face a Ravens’ defense that is stunningly last in the NFL in yards passing allowed per game (290.2), 20th in opponents’ yards per pass attempt (6.8), and 30th in completion percentage allowed (72.88 percent).

Those numbers come despite having two-time All-Pro Marcus Peters and one-time All-Pro Marlon Humphrey at cornerback. Despite having first-round pick Kyle Hamilton at safety. Despite having signed safety Marcus Williams to a five-year, $70 million contract in free agency.

I don’t know what is going on in the Baltimore secondary — I will leave that to BBV’s Nick Falato to figure out. I just know that despite the brand names in the Ravens’ defensive backfield this seems like a chance for the Giants to make some big plays throwing the football.

Who’s playing? Who isn’t?

As we do most every week, we are back to spinning the Giants’ Injury Roulette Wheel?

Will defensive lineman Leonard Williams play after missing three games with a sprained MCL?

What are the chances any of the sidelined wide receivers — Kenny Golladay, Wan’Dale Robinson, Kadarius Toney — makes it to the starting line on Sunday? My best guess on which one has the best chance would be Robinson.

What about Azeez Ojulari (calf)? Cor’Dale Flott (calf)? Adoree’ Jackson (knee)? Fabian Moreau? I am probably forgetting a few guys.

Yes, JPP is still going

Amazing! When the former Giants star blew off a significant chunk of his right hand in a 2015 July 4 fireworks accident, most figured there was no way he would return to be a quality NFL player. Yet, here is Jason Pierre-Paul all these years later, now a member of the Ravens, still terrorizing quarterbacks.

JPP, recently signed by Baltimore, has 33.0 sacks since leaving the Giants. He is 33 now, and it seems like his career is on a year-to-year lease. Still, Daniel Jones best be on the lookout for Pierre-Paul, wearing the weird No. 4 jersey for Baltimore.

Pierre-Paul is certainly one of a kind.

Saquon soaring

Saquon Barkley leads the league in total yards from scrimmage (676) and is second in the league in rushing yards with 533. That puts him on pace for 2,298 yards from scrimmage and 1,812 yards rushing. Those numbers would blow away what Barkley did in his 16-game rookie season — 1,307 rushing yards and 2,028 total yards.