Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ravens Getting it Done With Smoke & Mirrors

The Ravens are six games into the 2007 season and in some ways it seems as though they haven’t even started. What it feels like at times is an extended version of the preseason because the team that takes the field down there at M&T Bank Stadium just isn’t the team we all expected it to be.

Sure they’ve had their fair share of injuries which have certainly impacted the season and if the regular season ended today, the Ravens would be a playoff participant. But let’s call out the Ravens 4-2 start for what it is – smoke and mirrors.

When the season started even those entrenched in polar opposite opinions about the Ravens could agree on one thing – the Ravens needed to get off to a good start in light of the brutality that the schedule makers inflicted upon them after their October 28 bye. In order for the Ravens to be a post season participant, a 5-2 start was considered essential.

Clearly after their victory on Sunday the Ravens are positioned to do exactly that. A win in Buffalo against the 1-4 Bills sends the Ravens into their off week at the minimally targeted 5-2. Yet the journey to their 4-2 perch is a bit misleading.

Up until the Ravens game against the Rams, the team was 3-2 while scoring 88 points and yielding 97. They have beaten the Jets (1-5), the Cardinals (3-3), the 49ers (2-3) and the Rams (0-6). If you are keeping score, that’s a combined winning percentage of 29.4% (10-24). Save the Cardinals, each of these teams has fallen well short of expectations yet the Ravens are a dropped touchdown pass, a Matt Stover 49 yard field goal and a missed field goal by Joe Nedney from losing three of those games.

The Ravens have dropped both divisional contests. The Bengals beat the Ravens on opening night and haven’t won since. The surprising Browns are 3-3 and whipped the Ravens 27-13.

Even last Sunday’s 22-3 win over the Rams is a bit misleading. The Ravens had five interceptions against the hapless and injury decimated troops from St. Louis. Those interceptions on average were returned to the Rams 35 yard line. What did the Ravens do on those five possessions against the philanthropic Rams? They scored twelve points. Twelve points courtesy of four Matt Stover field goals. On their other post interception possession Kyle Boller threw an interception of his own at the Rams 11. Oh and by the way if you are still keeping score, the Rams have the league’s 22nd ranked defense.

The numbers don’t stop there…

How many times does a team that wins by the score of 22-3 gain fewer net yards than their opponent (248 v. 264)? Have the same number of first downs (14)? Have a fewer number of plays (67 v. 63) or a greater number of punts (5 v. 2)?

The red zone inefficiencies continue to mount and now the Ravens are mixing in interceptions and touchdowns negated by penalty. Currently they rank 30th in the league in the red zone ahead of the lowly Rams and Falcons. Even more staggering is the fact that the Ravens woeful ineptness in the red zone is by way of the NFL's worst defenses. The six teams that the Ravens have faced are ranked 28th defensively on average.

How will they manage to score during the second half of the season when the Ravens tackle some of the NFL’s stingiest defenses in terms of points allowed: the Patriots (1), Colts (3), Chargers (11) and the Steelers (5)? After the break the Ravens will face teams with a current collective winning percentage of 58% and teams that can score. Six of their 9 games after the break will be against offenses that rank sixth or better in average points scored per game, including the No.1 (Patriots) and No. 3 (Colts) scoring teams.

The Ravens’ plan is to go to 5-2 and then return from Upstate New York and lick their wounds, enjoy a little R&R, go in for a little Nip/Tuck on their red zone offense and then all will be happy here in The Land of Pleasant Living, right?

Well maybe...provided of course they continue to successfully employ the smoke and mirrors.


Anonymous said...

So aside from more smoke and mirrors, what do you suggest the Ravens do to solve the red zone woes that have plagued them since Brian Billick arrived?

Anonymous said...

"So aside from more smoke and mirrors, what do you suggest the Ravens do to solve the red zone woes that have plagued them since Brian Billick arrived?

10:58 AM"

Yeah, right. Cat got yer tongue Tony? You don't seem to have any problem coming up with your cutesy little quips in other blog entries. TFF. I guess the answer man is out of answers when the real questions get asked.

The sad truth is -- a lot of people prefer pretty smoke and mirrors to ugly truth/reality.

Keep spinning it Tony. Maybe eventually you'll spin yourself back to square one and rediscover your integrity and the driving force that got you started in all of this in the first place.