Seven games into the season, here are seven stats that explain the Ravens' start

For the Ravens fan who lives for Tuesdays, for the sweet release of updated NFL power rankings, the team’s 24-23 loss Sunday to the New Orleans Saints did not alter much. By most every account, they are still a top-10 team, if not a top-five team.

But in the AFC North standings, it is a different story. The Ravens (4-3) are behind the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. They are tied with the Cincinnati Bengals, to whom they lost in Week 2. They are ahead of only the Cleveland Browns, who also claimed victory in their first matchup. The playoffs are far from guaranteed.

As the Ravens try to reconcile perception with reality ahead of Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, a deep dive into the numbers can shed some light. Here are seven key or notable stats that explain where the Ravens stand seven games into the 2018 season.

21

The number of passes on which Ravens wide receiver John Brown has been targeted 20 yards or more downfield this season, according to Pro Football Focus, the most in the NFL.

Among players with at least 100 receiving yards on so-called deep passes, Brown is also first in the league for the highest share of deep passes, with 42.9 percent of his 49 targets coming at least 20 yards downfield, according to the analytics website.

No wonder, then, that Brown — who has 558 receiving yards and four touchdowns in seven games — is on pace to smash career bests for receiving yards (1,003 in 2015) and touchdowns (seven in 2015). His mark of 19.9 yards per catch is over 4 yards higher than his previous best and ranks third in the NFL.

31-26-2

The combined record of the Ravens’ nine remaining opponents, a mix of five games at home and four on the road.

The remaining schedule includes a one-loss team rewriting offensive records by the week — the Kansas City Chiefs, whom the Ravens face in Missouri in Week 14 — and a one-win team finding new ways to accelerate its rebuild — the Oakland Raiders, who come to Baltimore on Thanksgiving Weekend.

One potentially ominous sign for the Ravens: They haven’t exactly faced a murderers’ row yet. Their first seven opponents are a combined 22-23-2.

95.4

The percentage of offensive snaps guard Marshal Yanda has played, tied for third highest on the team.

Only center Matt Skura (544 snaps) and tackle Ronnie Stanley (532) have played more than Yanda, who has seen the field as often as quarterback Joe Flacco (519).

While the dominant form that carried Yanda to first-team All-Pro honors in 2014 and 2015 has so far eluded him, he still is among the NFL’s highest-rated guards. And none of them got so late a start to their season.

Yanda fractured his left ankle early last season, hurt his shoulder in the offseason, wasn’t activated from the team’s physically-unable-to-perform list until early August, then didn’t play a game in the preseason.

1

The number of catches by Hayden Hurst in three games — and fellow rookie Mark Andrews’ rank among first-year tight ends in receiving yards.

Thirteen tight ends were taken after the Ravens drafted Hurst with the No. 25 overall pick, and all but a few have been more productive receivers. That includes Andrews, a third-round pick who has 14 catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns. (The Seattle Seahawks' Will Dissly, a fourth-round pick, is stuck on 156 yards after suffering a season-ending injury in Week 4.)

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Hurst is practicing “really well,” but acknowledged the time he lost after suffering a stress fracture in his foot in late August has delayed his development.

8

The number of rushing first downs by Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson on 20 carries, a remarkable 40 percent success rate.

Starting running back Alex Collins, for comparison’s sake, has 15 first downs on 87 attempts (17.2 percent), while backup Buck Allen has moved the chains nine times on 38 carries (23.7 percent). Los Angeles Rams star Todd Gurley II, the league’s leading rusher, is 40-for-144 (27.8 percent). Flacco, a top-quality quarterback-sneak option, is 9-for-17 (52.9 percent).

While Jackson’s playing time and role have varied over the course of the season, he leads the Ravens in yards per carry (5.2) and is the team's only player with a run of longer than 20 yards.

7

The number of receptions cornerback Jimmy Smith allowed over his first six games last season and over his first three this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

The low point of Smith’s return from a four-game season-opening suspension came in Sunday’s loss to the Saints, in which he was targeted six times and allowed five catches for 84 yards. He also committed two defensive-pass-interference penalties.

Smith, who shouldered the blame for the loss afterward, has so far been outplayed by cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey, who missed Sunday’s game with a thigh injury. The 30-year-old Smith is still less than a year removed from a torn Achilles tendon, which limited his availability throughout the preseason.

99.0

The year-over-year increase in passing yards per game for Flacco, from 196.3 last season to a career-high 295.3 in 2018.

While Flacco still does not rank among the league's elite passers — 11 quarterbacks average more yards per game this year — his aerial output has become increasingly important with the disappearance of the Ravens' ground game.

Through seven games, Flacco is also on pace to eclipse career bests for passing yards in a season, passing attempts and interception percentage.

jshaffer@baltsun.com

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