Ravens Review and Preview – Part 1 of 5
Are the 2018 Ravens trending up or down? The 2018 Ravens follow three years of improved record and some prominent traditional statistics. Let’s take a look:
Chronologically from 2015 to 2016 to 2017:
Wins: 5 to 8 to 9
Points For: 328 to 343 to 395
Points Against: 401 to 321 to 303
Point Differential: -73 to +22 to +92
That shows definite statistical improvement over that three year window. One could even categorize it as “strong and impressive”. They narrowly missed the playoffs in 2017. Is this a team on the rise headed into 2018? Are the Ravens definitely playoff bound? Fellow writer Gabe Ferguson Wonders if the Ravens are a Flawed Team…. Good read.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
A quick look at some preseason Power Rankings after the draft reveals a WIDE range of opinions about the club.
ESPN has them ranked #22. That would be up slightly from the #24 slot they held before the draft.
The NFL website has them ranked #14 up two spots from their #16 rank before the draft. The Ravens drafted 12 players and the first four selections were on offense. Perhaps, that is better represented by saying three of those picks were meant to help their veteran QB out on the field. I could comment about how drafting Lamar Jackson was also done to “help” Flacco out on the field but I will refrain. Ozzie Newsome is not planning to watch his last season as a GM hinge on the performance of a rookie QB. That pick will hopefully be his legacy/gift to the organization. Time will tell. Newsome did not draft Lamar Jackson in hopes of beating out Joe Flacco. Newsome made his QB intentions clear when he signed Flacco back in 2013 to that big contract. Could the stars be aligning for a push from the Ravens to help celebrate Newsome’s 17 years of service as general manager in the organization. Will the Ravens sit atop the standings on 12/30/18 as they host the Browns at home to end the season? Could the stars be aligning for the 2018 Ravens?
A listing of the draft choices from this year’s draft:
Rivers McCown wrote a nice article about the Raven’s offense (specifically Alex Collins) and expectations heading into 2017. Take a look if you have not already done so – you will enjoy it.
This article will mainly deal with unit (offense and defense) and team assessment through drive data. Before we get further into 2018, how did the 2017 season go? The 9-7 record over the 16 game season will be broken into “quarters”. We will rewind the season in four quarters of four games and re-evaluate and explore deeply the numbers produced – not the bulk statistics – but instead the game to game numbers through drive performance analytics and data visualizations.
For each game, a brief written game synopsis surrounds a chronological visualization of drive data produced in the game. The drive data is processed through a performance metric accounting for such information as starting field position, clock time, drive result, yards covered and more. The horizontal axis is time on the game clock. Each graphical game summary (GameMap) is presented from the perspective of the Ravens. Note the vertical axes labelled as Successful above the line and Unsuccessful below the line. Every drive has been mapped to a single success continuum. Also, two plots are presented – a Trend-Q and Game-Q. The Trend represented the current flow and feel of the game while the GameQ represents the cumulative effect of all drives to that point in the game. Links to some short videos will also help calibrate you to the presentation scheme. Once you are calibrated, the flow and feel of a game is revealed quickly in this chronological presentation. You get a very quick and accurate view of how the score came to be and how each team and unit played throughout the game.
The concepts behind Visualytics are described here as well. A quick note about the website (TheQ5.com) – the 2018 season was spent developing a predictive analytics model focusing on game outcomes. You can see the successful results from the efforts of a betting model reacting to point spreads from weeks 5 thru 16 of the 2018 season. Later articles will discuss more of this work and because of the efforts put to the model, the website has not been updated with the 2018 GameMaps or data but we hope to correct that soon. Here are the visualizations for the first four games from the 2017 Raven’s season:
Week 1: BAL 20 vs CIN 0. Three first half turnovers and 17 points start the season out in great fashion for the Ravens on the road. A late first half touchdown by the Ravens is quickly followed by an interception. Lardarius Webb’s interception of Andrew Dalton sets up the Ravens at the Bengals 2 yard line. They convert the possession into a touchdown in only one play. Terrance West runs over left guard for a 2-yard score.
The second half starts with a Ravens possession ended with a quick interception at their own 26 yard line but the defense rises up and forces a sack-turnover to end the threat. Terrell Suggs causes Dalton to fumble on 3rd and 2, recovered by the Ravens. The Ravens start possession at their own 12 yard line and take it 81 yards to the Bengals 7-yard line where they settle for a field goal.
Week 2: BAL 24 vs CLE 10 in the home opener at M&T Bank Stadium. Just as in the opener, action just before halftime has a string influence on the outcome of the game. Up 14-7, the Ravens drive only 28 yards on the arm of Flacco to attempt a 58 yard field goal by Justin Tucker. Unabel to convert the field goal attempt, the Browns put the ball in the hands of quarterback Kevin Hogan and an interception by Tyus Bowser with under 30 seconds left gives Baltimore the ball at the Cleveland 40 yard line. Javorious Allen goes over left guard for 37 yards and Flacco hits Maclin for a 2-yard touchdown pass with only a few seconds left in the half.
The Ravens punt on their first possession of the 2nd half and the Browns manage a field goal on their first possession, The teams exchange punts before the Ravens kick a field goal on the first play of the 4th quarter. Baltimore intercepts DeShone Kizer on the next two possessions and the end the game with a great 2-0 record to start the year.
Game 3: JAGS 44 vs BAL 7. The week 3 game brings the 2-0 Ravens into Wembley Stadium as 3-point favorites to take on the 1-1 Jaguars. As what could be a precursor for the Jaguars eventual march to the AFC Championship game, the Ravens suffer a bad early season loss. The Jags dominate the Ravens jumping out to a 44-0 lead in only 3 quarters of work. The lack of drive markers (circles) in the “successful” range on the Trend-Q plot reveal that neither or offense or defense showed up in the first half. Two touchdowns and three field goals in the first half for the Jags does not stop in the second half. An interception and a fumble by the Ravens in the 3rd quarter are turned into touchdowns by the Jags offense. I am sure Harbaugh brought to the team that this game needed to be corrected quickly as the Steelers loomed next week. That must have been a very quiet plane flight back across the Atlantic.
Game 4: PIT 26 vs BAL 9. Even home cooking does not do the trick to get a win over what most people know to be a top team in the entire AFC. The Steelers get a win at M&T Stadium to move to 3-1 on the season while the Ravens drop to 2-2. The first half is a tough watch for the home fans as the “Successful” region of the GameMap is empty except for a starting field position on a PIT drive. That drive in the first quarter has the Steelers taking it 84 yards in 16 plays from their own 3 yard-line. The Ravens 19-point first half deficit is turned to a 19-9 game by midway thru the 3rd quarter but they get no closer. Two fourth quarter possessions end in Flacco interceptions – both on short passes over the middle – and the Steelers Le’Veon Bell scores on a 1-yard rush with just over 2 minutes left to ice the game.
So, the Ravens sit 2-2 after the first quarter of the 2017 season. It will turn out that those two losses would come against two teams to eventually make the divisional round of the playoffs but those two losses were not “good losses” – not games where much positive could be extracted. Next week we look back at the second quarter of the season, games 5 thru 8.