The Ravens could be the best team in football, but they also deserve to be 7-4
The 2022 Baltimore Ravens season is starting to feel like the NFL version of Groundhog Day.
Sunday’s fourth-quarter collapse against Jacksonville felt like the latest variation of the same game that Baltimore has been losing all year, as all four of their losses have featured blown multiple-possession leads.
Despite these losses, many of the underlying metrics suggest that there is a fluky nature to these losses, and the Ravens should rebound.
But Baltimore has been plagued by the same problems for long enough that it would be reasonable to ignore some of those numbers, but that does not mean they are wrong.
It means that the Ravens have put themselves in a special category, one where self-destruction has become a massive part of their identity.
Based on the metrics that tend to be most predictive, the Ravens should still be considered one of the Super Bowl favorites.
They currently rank second in the NFL in DVOA and are one of only two teams in football to be in the top 10 in offensive, defensive, and special teams DVOA.
Most advanced metrics such as DVOA do not put as much weight into things like penalties and red zone performance, because while being important in determining the outcome of an individual game, they tend to not hold much weight in terms of long-term predictions.
In other words, if a team has a great drive that stalls for a field goal, the numerous down sequences that got the team into the Red Zone are more predictive of future success than the one three-play sequence that forced them to settle for a field goal.
The potential greatness of this team goes even deeper, as according to CBS Sports the Ravens are one of only four teams in NFL history to lead by multiple possessions in each of their first 11 games.
The problem is that the first three teams were 11-0 at this point in the season, whereas Baltimore is 7-4.
This tells us that not only are the Ravens a very good team, but they could be historically dominant.
When gaging how they could match up against other potential AFC playoff opponents, it should matter that Baltimore has led the Jets, Dolphins, Patriots, Bills, and Bengals by double digits.
But more weight needs to be put into Baltimore’s self-destructive tendencies because these losses are not just about what has happened this year.
That Jacksonville loss felt like the loss to the Giants earlier this year, which felt like the losses to the Rams and the Steelers last year, which felt like the losses to the Titans and the Steelers in 2020.
And we have long surpassed the point of being able to call the issues plaguing the Ravens non-predictive.
The issues the Ravens had yesterday snapping the ball on time were nothing new, as that is an issue that has plagued Greg Roman’s offenses for his entire career.
They have been plagued by drops in big moments ever since the disastrous loss to the Titans in the 2019 Divisional Round.
The offense has continuously stalled near the goal line in big moments, never ranking higher than 14th in red zone touchdown percentage over the past three seasons, while Justin Tucker has now attempted at least three field goals in 16 of the Ravens’ 44 regular season games over that same time period.
These are problems that statistically tend to not stick with teams but have now become part of Baltimore’s identity.
The Paradox of the Ravens
Based on the way that historical data tells us we should evaluate football, the Ravens should be a hot sleeper candidate ready to make a playoff run as they perfectly fit the profile of a team whose record does not reflect the true quality of their underlying play, similar to the 2020 Buccaneers and 2021 49ers.
The truth is that if these types of losses were just a symptom of the 2022 season I would not be as worried, but this is about more than just this year.
Baltimore has now spent multiple years consistently losing games where they have been better than their opponent based on what happened when the two teams match up against one another but then embarked on a path of self-destructiveness outside the play-to-play flow of the game.
This is why the 2022 Ravens serve as the ultimate paradox. They are a team that is more than good enough to win the Super Bowl, while also fundamentally not having what it takes to go all the way.
This is the time of year when numerous teams with hopes of competing come to the realization that they are simply outclassed by the teams they are trying to catch.
That is not the case for the Ravens. Rather, they are a truly great team that is once again throwing games away due to self-inflicted wounds.
Given what we have all watched for the past three seasons, it is hard to have confidence that these problems will be magically fixed.
And if they aren’t, 2022 will go down as yet another lost season for the Ravens, one where a great team once again fell victim to their own stupidity.