What's Wrong With The Ravens? Absolutely Nothing!

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What's Wrong With The Ravens?  Absolutely Nothing!
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Sitting at 5-4 and in third place in the AFC North, the fans and media, including myself, are all in a hurry to find out what’s wrong with the Ravens.  I set out to provide a definitive answer as to what wrench was thrown in the Ravens machine after they rolled all the way to the AFC Championship game last season.

 

Most people feel the Ravens defense has slipped a little.  Could injuries to Haloti Ngata along with wear and tear on stars like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have robbed a once-dominant unit of its edge?

 

The table below shows the Ravens rank for the last decade in defensive effectiveness per play, known as DVOA by the team at Football Outsiders.

 

 

Ravens Defensive Rank by DVOA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall Defence Rank

Pass Defence Rank

Rush Defence Rank

Year

 

 

 

1999

1

2

2

2000

2

7

1

2001

4

9

4

2002

6

6

12

2003

1

1

3

2004

2

2

4

2005

6

10

4

2006

1

2

2

2007

5

20

1

2008

2

2

1

2009

4

10

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, the Ravens defense is still an elite unit.  The only performances in which the defense ranked worse than the league average was against Kansas City in Week 1, and against Minnesota in Week 6.  The latter is hardly surprising, given the momentum with which the Vikings offense has operated this year.

 

If the issue isn’t with the defense, than it must be the offense.  Wrong again.  The Ravens offense is the 6th best in the league, and is well balanced with the 4th ranked rushing attack and the 12th ranked passing attack.  The only below-average offensive showings this season were the last 2 games, against the Bengals and Browns.  This fact presents some concern that opponents have “figured out” the Ravens offense, but it appeared to be more a lack of execution in the Browns game while the Bengals defense has played well all year.

 

The biggest reason the Ravens are 5-4 is their schedule.  The Ravens have played three games against terrible teams, and 6 games against teams with a combined record of 40-14.  They are 2-4 in those 6 games, but three of the losses were by six points or less. 

 

Now-departed kicker Steven Hauschka missed a potential game winner against the Vikings, and they were within a few plays of winning against the Pats and the Bengals in the first meeting.  The Ravens could just as easily be 7-2 and tied with the Bengals for top spot in the division. 

 

Unfortunately for John Harbaugh and company, they still have two games against the Steelers and one against the undefeated Colts on the schedule to go with a trip to Lambeau Field.  Unless they can go 5-2 down the stretch, their play-off hopes may have to go on hold until next season.

 

The 2009 Ravens remind me a lot of the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers.  They are much better than most people realize.  They are getting plenty of practice against play-off caliber teams.  They may have to sneak into the playoffs through a wild card spot, but no team will want to play them.

 

 

 

 

 

Other articles by this author can be found at Sports Opinionated

 

All stats and analysis for  this column are taken from publicly available data and the premium database on NFL.com and FootballOutsiders.com.  Efficiency numbers refer to the DVOA and Adjusted Line Yards ranking on FootballOutsiders.com

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