We know how much of a cakewalk the rest of the season is for Baltimore Ravens. With continued offensive woes, can the defense carry them to the playoffs?
The Baltimore Ravens sit at 5-5 on the season with their future resting entirely in their hands. They can easily make the playoffs thanks to such a weak schedule. However, with the offense continuing to struggle, it might be entirely on the Ravens defense to carry the team into the post-season. Thankfully, that seems entirely possible.
Here’s how the defense has stacked up this season. (via NFL.com):
Points per game – 3rd (17.1)
Total Defense – 6th (306.0)
Passing yards per game – 2nd (185.2)
Interceptions – 1st (16)
Sacks – 8th (28)
Dominance versus the pass
Thanks to the strong play of corners Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, and Marlon Humphrey, the secondary is the biggest strength of the team this year. Additionally, the safety play of Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson is improving every week, and Weddle now has four interceptions on the season.
The key to a good pass rush is a great secondary. With how well the secondary has played, the Ravens pass rush has been able to get home, as opposing receivers struggle to find open space. Terrell Suggs leads the team with 7.5 sacks on the season, and Matt Judon has racked up five of his own. Defensive lineman are also getting home, with guys like Willie Henry creating havoc in a rotational role.
All that’s really missing is the rookies to come into their own. Tyus Bowser does have two sacks on the year, but being a second-round pick means earning a larger role. Tim Williams has yet to make a big impact, despite his ferocious pass rushing ability. If the Ravens can channel both of their potentials, the Ravens pass rush could become another cornerstone of the defense.
Revived run defense
Sometimes stats lie. Looking at the league’s current rankings, the Ravens are 26th against the run. However, as we all know when Brandon Williams was missing from the lineup with a foot injury, the Ravens were straight up punked versus the run. Ergo, that ranking is somewhat inflated since we can’t give a complete pass for their performance but since Williams’ return, the Ravens have gotten right back to stuffing the run.
Over the last three games, the Ravens have allowed just 193 rushing yards on 66 carries (2.9 YPC). That’s dominant. The Ravens have allowed just 64.3 rushing yards per game over those last three games, which is top in the league by a whopping ~7.0 yards.
You can thank the dominant play of Williams and also nose tackle Michael Pierce. You also have the great rotational play of guys like Carl Davis and Willie Henry, who help the defensive line stay stout.
Stopping the run is what the Ravens have always been known for. Combining this with such a dominant secondary is the recipe for winning football.
The bottom line
Through the last three weeks, the Ravens defense has been the best in all football. The Ravens have pitched shutouts in two of their last three games. If it weren’t for the inadequacy of the offense, this Ravens team could easily make a run for the AFC North crown, let alone the playoffs.
Unfortunately, this Ravens offense is so poor that it may not matter. They rank 17th in the league with just over 21 points per game while also possessing the league’s 31st ranked offense in terms of total yards per game.
This Ravens defense is playing at a championship-caliber level and we’ve seen in the past, teams can win a Super Bowl with mediocre offenses. Heck, the 2000 Ravens won it all with a sub-par offense. With how dominant the defense has been, we can start to talk about this team having the ability to make a postseason run.
The Ravens need just enough from the offense to win games. Putting up 21 points is acceptable if those points are scored by the offense by itself. Combine that with a shutdown defense and the Ravens could make some serious noise.