Saturday, January 8, 2011

Breaking Down The Baltimore Ravens

Recap of the playoff preview extravaganza to date:

I have been keeping you up to date on the Kansas City Chiefs all year. If you've been reading me, then you know exactly how I feel on a wide variety of topics surrounding the team including the players and coaches, the team's strengths and weaknesses, and what went right/wrong in each of their wins and losses.

Well, now it's time for you to get up do date on the Chiefs' playoff opponent, the Baltimore Ravens...

Biggest Strength: Road experience. The Ravens have won 3 playoff games over the past two seasons, all of which came on the road. They lead the NFL with 6 road playoff victories since 2000. They went 5-3 on the road this season, including wins over the playoff bound New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers (sans Ben's Big Roethlisberger). The moment won't be anything this team can't handle.

Biggest Weakness: Offensive struggles down the stretch. The Ravens posted offensive outputs of 258 and 199 yards against Cleveland and Cincinnati, respectively, in the last two games of the season. In these two games, the Ravens leaned heavily on the running game, calling a total of 65 running plays to only 38 passing plays. If they come in with a similar strategy this weekend, it would almost ensure another tight game (see below).

Key Stat #1: The Ravens have forced 12 turnovers in their three playoff victories over the past two seasons. It's no secret that the Ravens go into playoff games with ambitions of running the ball and winning the turnover battle, which is always an effective strategy on the road. In their two playoff losses in that same span, their defense only forced two turnovers.

Key Stat #2: 12 of Baltimore's 16 games this season were decided by one score, including all four of their losses, which equates to a 8-4 record in those games. This means the Ravens weren't blown out all season long.

Key Stat #3: Baltimore didn't lose a game this season when scoring 22 or more points (7-0). The Ravens went 5-4 when scoring 21 or less.

Biggest Win: 30-24 over New Orleans on December 19th, 2010. Outgained the Saints 208-27 in rushing yards and won the turnover battle by 2. This is the way the Ravens prefer to play. The game ended via a tipped INT with under 2 minutes to play.

Worst Loss: 15-10 against Cincinnati on September 19th, 2010. For whatever reason, the Ravens struggled with the Cincinnati Bengals in both games this year (think Romeo has gotten a hold of those tapes?). The stats were even across the board except for the Ravens four turnovers. You think turnovers are a big factor in how this Ravens team plays?

Key Players - Defense:
  • Ray Lewis, MLB- My nominee for THE best NFL player of my lifetime. Yea, I said it. No, I don't think it has to be a quarterback. There has been a high turnover rate on the Ravens' defense throughout his career, but they have always remained an elite unit. Numerous defensive coordinators have come and gone from Marvin Lewis to Mike Nolan to Rex Ryan, and yet the drop-off hasn't been there. Lewis dropped a level about 3-4 years ago, but has plateaued since then, providing the necessary longevity to his career that when combined with his production earn him the right to sit atop my list.
  • Ed Reed, S- The news today is all about Reed's brother, who earlier today escaped from the cops only to jump into a river and never surface. So, he either escaped via river (very Ed Reed like) or died somehow. You have to wander what effect this will have on Reed for this game. Those questions aside, the freelancing Reed is the best ballhawking safety in the NFL.
  • Terrell Suggs, OLB- Surprisingly, the Ravens have only accumulated 27 sacks on the season, but Suggs has accounted for 11 of them. He is a speed rusher and will be moved around from side to side, so both Branden Albert and Barry Richardson will have to keep a watchful eye on him throughout the game. He likes to gawk.
  • Haloti Ngata, NT- He is a mountain of a man. Chiefs' center Casey Weigmann has struggled some with bigger nose tackles in the 3-4 defense, and Ngata might be the best in the business nowadays. He might singlehandedly force the Chiefs to avoid running straight up the gut, and instead focus more on the perimeter rushing game.
  • "The Uni-Browmber" Joe Flacco, QB- Flacco's career playoff numbers look like this: 57-120, 47%, 660 yards, 1 TD, 6 INT. That's a mere 132 passing yards per game. Yes, some of those numbers came from his rookie year. Yes, he has since matured into a better QB. No, I am not scared of Joe Flacco.
  • Ray Rice, RB- Rice is a top-10 NFL running back. He's short but rather built, and uses that to his advantage to fight for extra yards in pileups. Despite rushing for 1,220 yards this season, he only eclipsed the century mark twice. He doesn't break a lot of big runs (although, he had an 83 yard touchdown run on the first play of the game against NE in last year's playoffs). He is also a very good receiver out of the backfield.
  • Anquan Boldin, WR- 'Quan had a big start to the season (27 catches in first 4 games), and I was under the impression that he was tearing it up all season long. However, his stats tell me a different story. He has totaled only 8 catches for 67 yards in his last four games. I'm not sure if he has been banged up, but he doesn't seem to be the weapon he was at the beginning of the season.
Special Teams:
  • Billy Cundiff, K- For some reason, his ESPN picture is in Chiefs get-up (don't recall this). Cundiff is 26-29 on the year, which is pretty solid. He lacks a big leg though, and is only 4-13 from 50+ yards in his career.
  • Jalen Parmalee, KR- Decent average per return, but hasn't broken a 40-yarder the entire season.
  • Lardarius Webb, PR- Subpar average per return, with three 20+ yard returns (same as Arenas), and no 40+ yard returns. Also has 2 fumbles on the season.
This concludes the look at the hated Baltimore Ravens. They're physical, they're tough, but they're not dominating. They like to run the ball and force turnovers. They have a solid front 7 on defense, but are weak at cornerback (which I didn't really get into). They won't be scared coming into Arrowhead on Sunday, but the Chiefs shouldn't be scared of them either. These are two evenly matched teams (with the game in Kansas City) and in all likelihood, the team that plays better on Sunday will move on in the playoffs. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the Chiefs' keys to victory, which should rock your world.

Go Chiefs,
His Dirkness


DBZ said...

I'm very excited about this game. As excited as I was for the Raiders game. I think this is going to be one of those classic low scoring, classic playoff games where a few big scores make a difference. I guess everyone thought that with the Patriots/Panthers superbowl a few years ago and I think they both scored in the 30s. Go Chiefs.

DBZ said...

I wish I would have brought this up before we played them, because I don't feel like talking about Ray Lewis as much now, but I really like your pick as him as the best NFL player of your time. It's unexpected and edgy. Most of your argument is that he has made the Ravens consistently one of the best defenses. Hasn't Ed Reed been there basically the whole time Ray Lewis has? How do you know it isn't him that does it? Also Priest would be mad at you.

His Dirkness said...

Awesome, I'm all about being edgy!

Reed has been there for the latter half, but was not for their Super Bowl team, which was the best defense ever assembled in the NFL. Also, Reed is overrated, and gives up as many big plays as he makes a lot of the time.

Priest can settle for my favorite playa of all time. Oddly enough, a former teammate or Ray the Murderer though.