Baltimore’s defensive unit is normally one of the best in the game, but it has been plagued this season by injuries. Still, the Ravens’ defense ranks second in the NFL in limiting touchdowns in the red zone – something the Giants’ offense has struggled with all season.
“You see size up front; they’re very powerful, big, difficult to move and displace, so it’s hard to get a consistent running game,” Gilbride said. “Of course, they had some injuries with their linebackers, so I’m sure they’re feeling inconsistent. But we see the ability level.”
The Ravens’ defense is full of playmakers that are willing to gamble and take chances. As a result, there could either be a whole lot of turnovers or a whole lot of room for Eli Manning to work with.
“What you hope is that there’s going to be some chances for some big plays,” Gilbride said. “You capitalize on them when they’re available.”
One of those playmakers is safety Ed Reed, who comes into the game with four interceptions and one touchdown. He’s no youngster at 34 years old, but he’s certainly a defensive threat to the Giants.
“When he (Reed) make a pick or picks up a fumble, he looks like he’s 22 years old again,” Gilbride said. “You hear about the injuries and the age, but you don’t see that when he’s running with the ball.”
Gilbride said that Reed is constantly studying film and anticipating what an opposing offense will do before it happens.
“He’s one of those guys that has phenomenal confidence in his ability to diagnose what’s happening, so he’s going to take chances that not everybody would take,” Gilbride said. “Because of his knowledge coupled with his athleticism, many of those gambles pay off. He’s somebody you have to be in tune with and aware of at all times.”
The Ravens’ defensive front led by Haloti Ngata does a great job in pressuring the quarterback. The Giants’ offensive line will need to step up its play but may not be 100 percent, as David Baas and Chris Snee sat out of practice Thursday. Gilbride is hopeful that the line will be fully healthy come game time.
“I know the toughness of the guys; I know their desire to play,” he said. “Because of that, I’m expecting them to play, but they haven’t practiced yet.”
In addition to Reed and Ngata, Ray Lewis is a concern for the Giants – that is if he’s healthy enough to play. Lewis is attempting to return from a torn triceps, and Gilbride said he wouldn’t be shocked if Lewis played Sunday.
“I know with the number of injuries that they’ve had at the linebacker position, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me in any way,” Gilbride said. “I know that they’re looking for a spark. Certainly his return would help galvanize them a little bit.”
No matter who is on the field Sunday for the Ravens, Manning and the Giants’ offense need to deliver a strong effort to keep playoff hopes alive.
Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.