There’s a long list of teams competing for the most disappointing team of the season right now. At the bottom of the NFL standings there are quite a few teams with a 1-5 record. Some were expected to be there, but one name stands out: The Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens lost two key players in the offseason – Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee, both too expensive for them to hold on to. Ngata also left a $7.5 million dead-cap charge with him, and along with Ray Rice, that’s a lot of money going nowhere instead on better players. McPhee peaked during his final rookie-contract year, and got a nice deal with the Bears, where he’s putting up nice numbers.
The Ravens would have done OK with the combination of Terrell Suggs as the every-down pass rusher while Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw splitting snaps. But Suggs tore his Achilles, just like in 2012 (when the Ravens won the Super Bowl) which means Za’Darius Smith and Albert McClellan are getting a lot more snaps than they should. This leads to more blitzing, because there’s no longer a player who can do the job of two. Which leaves a bad secondary too exposed.
The Ravens are giving up 27 points per game, 27th in the NFL. They’re one spot from the bottom in defending the third down conversions, allowing teams to get a new set of plays or score 47.8% of the time. They do get to the quarterback quite well (18 sacks) but it’s costing them a lot. Teams keep throwing deep against them like last season, with increased success. Quarterbacks have a 99.3 QBR against the Ravens when throwing for 16 yards or more downfield, completing 55.3% of those passes for six touchdowns and just one interception.
Key players playing injured or simply playing terribly, the secondary has been beaten again and again for big plays, which means the team is blitzing without having a safety blanket behind them. That’s a recipe for disaster, but without getting any pressure on quarterbacks, the defensive backs would probably still get torched right? Maybe the Ravens do need to cut back on reckless blitzing, but it might not get them anywhere better.
For all the wrong things going on with their defense, they’ve lost all their five games by six points or less. Yes, their only win came thanks to Josh Scobee making an awful mess of kicking the ball for the Steelers, but the Ravens were in the game or one play from winning it in all of them but for the loss to the 49ers. A turnaround is still possible, because the Ravens aren’t as bad as their record suggests, and certainly not as bad as the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars. But even if fortune does start favoring them in close games, making the playoffs now seems pretty much impossible.