The Baltimore Ravens are officially a statistical anomaly. Or are they? With an 8-2 record and owners of the second best mark in the AFC, the Ravens control their own destiny both in their division, where they own a two game lead, and in the conference, where they still have a date with the Denver Broncos at home remaining.
However, how long is it before what the Ravens actually are catches up to what the Ravens are actually playing like? All indications point to a Baltimore team that should be 5-5, 4-6 or even worse. On the other hand, are we simply analyzing the wrong numbers and need to look into more than just the rankings on offense and defense?
Heading into San Diego, the Ravens own the 21st ranked offense and 25th ranked defense. So how are the Ravens 8-2 you ask? By carefully doing the things they do best.
The Ravens take advantage of other teams mistakes, don’t make many themselves in terms of turnovers, and are the one of the league’s best teams in the red zone on both offense, and defense.
On the defensive side of the football, the Ravens are No.1 in the NFL in Red Zone Defense. They hold opponents to a 35.1 success rate. In other words, all of those yards the Ravens have allowed this season, that cause them to be ranked as one of the league’s worst defenses happens between the 20’s. Regardless of how poorly they play on third down when the opponent is on the Baltimore 40, they ultimately hold the opposition to field goals.
I don’t care how banged the Ravens are on defense, or who they are missing personnel wise, they are still too good to beat by simply kicking field goals against them. That is backed up by the fact that Ravens have allowed the ninth fewest points per game (20.6) this season in the league.
The Ravens are as opportunistic as any team in the NFL this season when converting points off turnovers. The Ravens are a plus 12 entering today’s game (Tied for second) and have lost just two fumbles all season. That is tied with Houston and Atlanta for the league low. Do you see a trend there Ravens fans?
The Ravens convert turnovers off points. Last week in a huge win over their divisional rivals, despite the road struggles of Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense, they managed six points on offense, which came off two Pittsburgh turnovers.
During the John Harbaugh era (2008, the Ravens are a plus 44, that ranks third behind only the Packers and Patriots during that period.
The plus 12 on the turnover margin is great but the numbers Ravens fans need to keep an eye on is plus four. That is the difference between a field goal and a touchdown and right now, the Ravens are the team scoring the TD’s and allowing the field goals in the offensive oriented NFL.
The Ravens also take full advantage of goal to go situations this season. Cam Cameron and Joe Flacco have combined to lead a unit that is first in the league with a 92.3 percent conversion rate when facing goal to go situations. The Ravens gave scored 12 touchdowns on 13 goal to go situations this season.
While the Ravens are ranked 28th in the league in time of possession, they have controlled the clock at the right times this season. Flacco has led the Ravens on 21 touchdown drives of 60 or more yards this season, which is fourth in the league. Baltimore has scored eight TD’s on drives that began inside their own 20-yard line, third best in the league.
Flacco and the Ravens are not afraid to take chances and that has contributed to Baltimore tying the NY Giants for seventh best in the league with 26.7 points per game scored. The offense has 45 plays of 20 or more yards this season, tying for fifth most in the NFL entering play on Sunday.
The Ravens may not win a ton of style pints with victories like the one in Kansas City, or the one in Pittsburgh last week, but the these are both games this team would not have won last year or the year before. Why, because the Ravens did not do the little things well or convert on the real stats that mattered most.
How ironic would it be that this team gets to the Super Bowl with a poorly ranked defense when they did it just once during the past dozen years with a unit that was seemingly one of the best in the league?
Much of the where the Ravens will not change with just six games remaining but what also cannot change is the way they are playing between the 20’s on defense and inside of them on offense.
Special teams also have been huge this season. Be honest Ravens fans, this is only a 5-5 team without Justin Tucker and Jacoby Jones. Jones has three return TD’s in the last five weeks and the Ravens do not win at home vs. Dallas or last week in Pittsburgh without his return TD’s.
Tucker has been sensational hitting 17 of 19 total and 4-of-4 from 50 plus yards this season.
The question is, can the Ravens continue to play this way or eventually will this catch up to them. History says they should be fine with John Harbaugh on the sideline down the stretch. Since the Harbaugh era began in 08, Baltimore has compiled a stellar record in November, December and January, going 30-13 overall (.750). Consider that the Ravens are on their fourth defensive coordinator during the Harbaugh tenure and many of the team’s staple players are gone, Mason, Heap, and Jarrett John son to name a few, and you have to like their chances.
When you factor in that they have won 15 straight and 23 of their last 24 games at M&T Bank Stadium, are dominating divisional opponents, stats really may never matter in terms of offensive and defensive rankings.
Head coach John Harbaugh said this week, "stats are for the media". He may be right in this case but the Ravens do have a firm grip on the stats that matter the most. scoring points and stopping teams from them scoring them.
Today’s game in San Diego is a game that may start to show exactly what kind of team the Ravens are. This is a game they lost by 20 points last season against Phillip Rivers and company. However, Harbaugh’s troops have shown they know how to win unconventionally and win when it matters most this season…………Finally.