Instead of doing my usual game preview, I’ve decided to let you learn about Baltimore from someone who really knows the team inside and out. Jeff Pilson from Baltimore Sports Report was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the Ravens.
1. What has emerged as your strength and weakness on the offense?
Traditionally, the Ravens have been a team that relies heavily on their running game. And while they have the talent to move the ball on the ground, the Ravens running game has not been as productive as many expected. All three of the Ravens primary ball carriers have been banged up over the last two weeks, so that has limited their effectiveness. Another part of the Ravens struggles running the ball has been the fact that they have faced some top defenses including the Jets, Bengals and Steelers on the road. Right now the Ravens are much more effective moving the ball through the air. This is not a tremendous surprise considering they have an improving QB in Joe Flacco and they went out and got Anquan Boldin and TJ Houshmanzadeh in the off season. When you combine those types of talents with Derrick Mason, Todd Heap and Ray Rice it is a tough cover for most any defense. Another area of strength for the Ravens on offense has been their pass blocking. Despite being without T Jared Gaither, the Ravens offensive line has done a great job of keeping Flacco upright. They were especially effective in Pittsburgh, allowing only 1 sack and they picked up blitzes very effectively on the Ravens game winning drive.
Statistically, the Ravens secondary has been the best in the NFL through four games. They are allowing the fewest pass yards per game in the league, and have allowed only 1 passing touchdown so far. The Ravens do not have anyone I would consider a physical shut down corner, but they have a lot of guys with good speed that recover well. The secondary is also communicating very well right now, which has limited opportunities for big plays and made the Ravens one of the toughest defenses in the league on 3rd down. Despite the good numbers, facing the top pass offense in the league will still be a stiff test. As far as a defensive weakness, I am not sure they have what I would consider a weakness right now. They do have room to improve their run defense. The Ravens have been good defending the run, but in each of their games they have given up a few big plays against the run. It is unusual to see running backs run untouched through big holes in the Ravens front, but it has happened and it is something I expect the Ravens to be able to correct. Another area for improvement is the defenses ability to create turnovers. The Ravens have only forced 2 turnovers in their first 4 games. The Ravens are typically a ball hawking defense that makes a lot of big plays. That has not been the case this year. Granted Ed Reed, who is as good as anyone else at getting his hands on the ball, has not suited up this year, but the Ravens need to finish plays when they get their hands on the ball.
I think the Ravens will win on Sunday because they have better talent on both sides of the ball. I expect the Ravens to be able to move the ball effectively on Denver’s defense both on the ground and through the air. In fact this should be the week that the Rice and the Ravens ground game has a big game. I also think the Ravens will bring Kyle Orton and the Broncos passing attack down a few pegs. Without much of a run game to worry about, the Ravens can focus on disrupting Orton’s timing and taking away his options. These things combined with home field advantage for the Ravens should make for happy fans in Baltimore come Sunday around 4 pm.
UPDATE: Check out my answers to the questions I fielded at Baltimore Sports Report here.