I know we said it might be the Jaguars that have the best defense in the NFL, but now it’s looking like the Baltimore might have stolen the top spot. So far this season, the Ravens are destroying and confusing quarterbacks, ruining running games, and stopping anything that gets close to the endzone. Their defense is super effective, and after six games, it clearly looks like the best in the league
Not only are they number one in scoring defense, giving up a mere 12.8 points per game on average (while no other team in the NFL can keep opponents under 17 points), they’re also number one in yards allowed, at just 35.7 yards per game. Based on numbers alone, they look like the best in the NFL. In fact, when you’re ranking defenses, there are 12 major categories that the experts look to for guidance. Baltimore ranks number one in seven of those.
At 4-2 in the AFC North, with losses to the Bengals and the Browns (woof!), we know the Ravens might not seem like the most impressive team in the league on first glance. But they have a big game coming up against the Saints where their defense stands to really prove its worth. The Saints are also the league’s highest-scoring offense and Drew Brees is having an excellent season, so this will be a true measuring stick for Baltimore’s defense.
Oh, and Brees has never beaten a Ravens team in his entire career. In fact, they’re the only team he hasn’t beaten. If they can do well against the Saints, some folks might just start comparing them to the epic defense of the 2000 Ravens team… who, by the way, won a Super Bowl.
Some Ridiculous Stats
Just to prove we’re not the only ones on this Ravens defense bandwagon, here’s some cold, hard (absurd) proof that they’re really that good:
- The Ravens had 11 sacks against Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans, the highest number in Ravens history. (The NFL record is 12.)
- Oh, and during that game, they shut the Titans out at home, the first time that’s happened in Nashville. The score was 21-0.
- In the first six games of this season, they haven’t given up a single second-half touchdown. The last time this happened was when the Lions did it way back in 1934.
- The Ravens held the Steelers to 19 rushing yards. Even without Le’Veon Bell, that’s sad. That hasn’t been done to the Steelers at home since 1952.
How The Ravens Defense is Different
Their defense was ranked only 12th last year, but all of their starters returned and they have a new defensive coordinator in Don “Wink” Martindale. Now they’re using some new ideas with these young but mature players.
Quite often, Ravens defenders aren’t placed in traditional set positions. They’ve got three safeties instead of the usual two for more speed and coverage and they use amoeba fronts. No, their defense isn’t nontraditional and wacky-shaped all the time (it’s mostly on third downs), but they do it more than anybody else in the NFL. And they’re starting to use these types of packages more frequently on first and second downs.
Other head coaches and defensive coordinators resist these types of plays because they’re often weak against the run game. And in traditional football, the run game is the thing you defend against first. But in today’s game, with the likes of crazy good quarterbacks, the passing game is where it’s at. Now, it’s all about stopping the pass. Three-safety packages and amoeba defenses are great at that, and their unique and unpredictable look creates doubt for the opposing offense.
According to Sports Illustrated, this type of defensive blueprint might be just the antidote to our current high-scoring, offense-happy NFL.
Yep, the Ravens are creating confusion… and it’s working.
Are they really that good though?
We hear the naysayers. They’ve only played one top-ten offense so far and Le’Veon Bell wasn’t even there.
These days, this is game is an offensive game, filled with quarterbacks, receivers, and running backs. Can they keep winning by shutting teams out or will they lose momentum against opponents with star quarterbacks like the Saints, the Panthers, and Chiefs?
Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith says, “[W]e need to prove what we can do against a really good quarterback. That’s what really matters.”
What about an offense of their own?
The Raven’s offense has been called one-dimensional. But quarterback Joe Flacco can run the ball and his playmakers down the field include wide receivers John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and Willie Snead IV. They’ve combined for a total of 81 catches and 1,080 yards this season. No, you’re not going to hear the experts rave about them just yet, but they have started to find balance in their last couple of games.
Don’t sleep on Joe Flacco though. He’s currently ranked number-eight in Vegas’s list of odds to win NFL MVP. He jumped up a number of spots after the Ravens dominated Tennessee last weekend. In that game, Flacco completed 25 of 37 passes for 238 yards with a touchdown… in bad weather. He’s currently fifth in the NFL for completions. And he’s healthy. According to ESPN, the trio of new receivers acquired through free agency during the offseason increased the talent of the team, but their chemistry has also improved. Flacco trusts those guys.
But really, all eyes are still on the Ravens defense and whether they can take on top teams and set trends that permeate the rest of the NFL.
We’ll leave you with a little reflection from Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr: “We’re chasing history right now … “That’s why we play the game, because we believe we can go out there and shut down our opponents. Against the biggest, the baddest, and the best, we try to find a way to chop them down.”
So are the Ravens legit Super Bowl contenders this year? According to Pete Prisco at CBS Sports, “You bet.”