Ravens Review and Preview – Part 3 of 5
After 8 games of the 2017 season, Ravens were sitting at 4-4. (Link: games 1-4, Link: games 5-8) The third “quarter” of the season awaited them. 10 wins should get them into the playoffs so they have real work to do and quickly. They’ll probably need a 6-2 record in the second half of the season to find their way into the playoffs. They start the second half of the season with a team that will eventually get to the divisional round of the playoffs. Baltimore makes a road trip to take on the Tennessee Titans.
Game 9 – BAL 20 vs TEN 23:
First two drives of the game result in FGs for each team. A 3-3 game begins to break apart when Flacco’s pass deep middle intended for Perriman is intercepted. I’ve never heard of this in pro football but this is Byard’s 4th INT in the last two games. Incredibly, he will add another to tally 5 INTs in just 2 games. He returns this first INT 33 yards to set up great field position. A quick drive of 46 yards puts the Titans in the end zone. Ravens answer with a long FG drive. However, the Titans next TD comes off of a shanked punt giving the Titans the ball on the Raven’s 26 yard line.
Also highlighted is the turnover on downs by the Ravens at the end of the 3rd quarter. The defense rises with an interception by Weddle giving the Ravens great field position and they drive the ball for a TD. However, the Titans respond on their next drive with a TD putting the game back to a 10-point deficit.
This game is a good example of how bulk/game statistics like total yards have limited value as opposed to evaluation of each drive thru a drive performance metric. The Ravens outgainned the Titans 341 yards to 257 yards but note that two of the Titans TD drives totaled just 72 yards. The first and second TDs by the Titans were 46 and 26 yards. Those drives are highly successful – especially since a short field will capture the attention of the defense. Every defense has been trained/challenged to focus on limiting the damage in these situations. Holding a team to a FG is a HUGE positive for a defense put in this bad starting situation. The Titans were good enough to both create the great field positions and score touchdowns. A real show of strength and a huge deciding factor in the game.
Game 10 – BAL 23 vs GB 0: Three first half turnovers by the Packers end in just a 6-0 lead for the Ravens at half. Ravens get into the end zone quickly in the second half and essentially end the game by forcing another turnover on the next GB possession. 6 total turnovers and two turnover on downs is a great showing by the Raven’s defense. Ravens season record now evens to 5-5.
Game 11 – BAL 23 vs Texans 16:
The Ravens first possession results in a punt (drives ended in a punt are not “marked” on the GameMap) and the Texans take their first possession for a TD. In the middle of the second quarter, the Ravens score two TDs. Just as TEN created and converted on great starting field position, the Ravens now do the same to the Texans. The first TD drive is only 50 yards and the second TD drive is only 46 yards. The second one comes on the heals of an interception by Tony Jefferson. That is a great showing of strength by the Ravens. The teams will exchange field goals the rest of the way and the Ravens never relinquish the lead.
The Ravens forced three turnovers, two in the final five minutes. After Suggs stripped the ball from quarterback Tom Savage and Baltimore recovered, Justin Tucker kicked his third field goal to put the game back to seven points. Anthony Levine then intercepted Savage pass on the next drive to end the game.
Game 12 – BAL 44 vs DET 20: A strong performance in the first half gives the Ravens a 20-0 lead at half and they are playing quite well on both sides of the ball. The Lions take the opening possession of the 2nd half and score a TD. They will score again near the end of the quarter to make the deficit just one score. However, the Ravens immediately respond with a TD. This leads to another TD by the Lions about 5 minutes into the 4th quarter. At this point, a quick scan backwards shows 3 TDs for each team and 2 FGs for the Ravens. It is a one score game at this time. The Ravens go on to score 17 points over the last half of the 4th quarter to make the score look like a blowout but GameMap helps us see that this was anything but a 24 point blowout. After a one-sided first half, this game tightens up and is closely contested until mid-way in the 4th quarter. The Ravens kick a FG, score an TD on offense and another by the defense to end the game.
The Ravens are on a 3 game win streak and have a 7-5 record. They finally got their 3-1 “quarter” of the 2017 season. The three wins come against teams that will not make the playoffs. The closest to making the playoffs would be the Lions who finish the season 9-7. Two 9-7 teams will make the playoffs in the AFC but 9 wins does not get you into the post season in the NFC. The Texans finish the year with 4 wins the Packers finish with 7 wins.
For the upcoming season in 2018, game 9 starts a three game home stand against PIT, CIN and OAK Game 12 for 2018 then has the Ravens on the road at the Falcons.
This 3rd “quarter” of the 2018 season has two teams that will (almost definitely) be playing in the divisional rounds. Those being the Steelers and Falcons. And if the Ravens are going to make the playoffs, they do it by beating the Bengals to that spot. They would certainly have to beat them at home in game number 10. Feels like they will need to go at least 4-2 in division and 6-4 out of division to get the playoffs accomplished.
At the end of this 3rd “quarter” of the season, the Ravens will have played the 5 division games. Only a home game against Cleveland on the last day of the season remains in division. Can the Ravens be 8-4 at this point in the season? That feels like a very tall task considering the teams on the schedule. Not that Oakland is an “also-ran” in the league. They have one of the premier pas rushers and a QB in the discussion for NFL MVP a few years back.
The more I look at it, the Ravens chances fall squarely on the shoulders of one Joseph Vincent Flacco and his ability to win games. The equation keeps coming back to that for me. In a QB-driven league, your QB needs to be good for you to have a chance. This team feels like the QB needs to be GREAT for this team to have a chance to make the post-season. They’ll need points. They’ll need critical throws to convert 1st downs at critical moments in games. Flacco has to be the guy week in and week out for this team to make a playoff appearance. We’ll start to see on Thursday night in Canton.
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