Ravens’ defense will be under pressure for rest of the season

Ravens, Marlon Humphrey. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Ravens, Marlon Humphrey. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

Under intense pressure, even the most talented NFL teams can break. Can the Baltimore Ravens hold onto to a top playoff seed in 2022?

Yes, but it’ll heavily depend on their defense.

Just like in 2021, the Ravens are staring down the barrel of the final treacherous stretch of their season. With Lamar Jackson injured, Baltimore’s defense will face its toughest test this year to keep the team afloat in the uber-competitive AFC.

The only silver lining is that three of the four teams on the Ravens’ remaining schedule are sub-.500. However, given that Baltimore’s offense has only scored 39 points in their last three wins, victories against even bottom-feeder teams are hardly guaranteed.

NFL’s Jeffri Chadiha recently wrote about the important of the Ravens’ defense in these final weeks of the season as Baltimore have little to no room for error.

In theory, Chadiha points out that the Ravens have all the key pieces to maintain an elite defensive unit in 2022:

"Baltimore has everything it needs on defense to stay hot. They’ve got perennial Pro Bowl players (cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey) and savvy veterans who are playing at a high level (edge rusher Justin Houston has nine sacks in his 12th season). They’ve seen key players return from injuries (linebacker Tyus Bowser and safety Marcus Williams) while a new star arrived at midseason (linebacker Roquan Smith came via a trade with Chicago)."

Ravens need their defense to step up in final four weeks of the season

The Roquan Smith trade turned the tide for the Ravens’ defense and poses as one of Eric DeCosta’s best moves in recent history. Since Smith joined Baltimore in Week 9, the defense has allowed the league’s fewest rushing yards per game (55.0), the second-fewest points per game (13.4), and the second-fewest touchdowns (6).

If Smith and the other shining stars of the defense can keep up their consistent play and get opposing offenses off the field quickly, the Ravens naturally have their best chance at winning their final games and securing the AFC North.

But consistency has hardly been the theme of this year’s defensive play. Earlier in the season, Baltimore blew three fourth-quarter leads, two of which occurred when the Ravens were up 17-plus points.

When the stakes are even higher at this point in the season, who’s to say the Ravens won’t suffer another defensive collapse?

In recent games, the Ravens’ much-improved defensive stats are starting to suggest a positive trend highlighted by the team’s three interceptions against the Steelers last week.

With a much healthier backfield in 2022, the defense is stacked with elite playmakers who can singlehandedly change the momentum of games. That gives Baltimore a crucial advantage considering the next three quarterbacks the Ravens face on their schedule: a rusty arm who hasn’t played in the last two years (Browns’ Deshaun Watson) and two unreliable rookies (Falcons’ Desmond Ridder and Steelers’ Kenny Pickett).

The Ravens have long taken pride in their defensive excellence, tracing back to their glory days when the likes of Ray Lewis and Tony Siragusa crushed offenses en route to a Super Bowl championship.

Defense alone won’t get this Baltimore team that far — they’ll need Lamar Jackson back to make a serious postseason run.

Next. It’s time to give the Ravens’ special teams unit their due. dark

For the next four games, though, the Ravens’ defensive performances will make or break the 2022 season. The objective couldn’t be more clear heading into Week 15: survive the end-of-season gauntlet, and the Ravens are in the clear.