A look at numbers that will have to change in 2018 if the Ravens are going to reach the playoffs

There are many numbers that will provide ample evidence as to why the Ravens didn’t make the NFL playoffs this year. It’s been well documented that the offense ranked 27th in yards per game and the defense collapsed in the fourth quarter of December losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals. Below are eight more statistics that speak to the Ravens’ 2017 struggles and will need to be fixed heading into next season:

4.6: The Ravens’ average yards per play on offense


That tied the Indianapolis Colts for the lowest in the league. Even when the offense started playing better in the second half of the season, it had a hard time creating big plays and needed to manufacture long drives to score points. Ravens wide receivers didn’t get behind defenses often and when they did, quarterback Joe Flacco couldn’t connect with them. The Ravens running game was much improved, but it was more of a grinding attack rather than an explosive one. If the Ravens are going to be an upper-tier offense next season, they badly need to hit on more big plays. Of the teams in the top 10 in yards per play this season, seven made the playoffs. That’s not a coincidence.

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5.72: Flacco’s yards per pass attempt


This technically ties into the first item, but it’s so poor that it deserves mention on its own. Flacco’s yards per pass attempt was the lowest of his career, wellbelow the 6.4 he averaged in 2013 and 2016. He ranked 32nd among qualifying quarterbacks in this category. Even Trevor Siemian (6.55), DeShone Kizer (6.08) and Brett Hundley (5.81) averaged more yards per passing attempt. An improved wide receiver corps, plus a tight end who can stretch the field, should help in this regard, but Flacco still needs to be more patient in the pocket and take shots down the field.

5-3: The Ravens’ record at home

A widely discussed recipe to make the playoffs is to dominate at home and go .500 on the road. The Ravens were 4-4 on the road, but they also dropped three home games, including the season finale they needed to win to make the postseason. The Ravens like to tout their home-field advantage, but the shine is off in recent years. They’ve lost 10 combined home games over the past three seasons. To put that into perspective, the Ravens lost seven total home games in coach John Harbaugh’s first five seasons. With a rigorous road schedule in 2018, they won’t have much margin of error at M&T Bank Stadium in 2018.

34.1: The Ravens’ conversion rate on third down

There has been a lot of griping about the red-zone offense, and it did let the team down in a few games, but the Ravens ranked 10th in the NFL in that category. However, on third down, the offense was the sixth worst in the league. It became common this season on third down for Flacco to throw an incompletion, for a pass catcher to get tackled short of the sticks or for a running back to get hauled down behind the line of scrimmage in a short-yardage situation. The Ravens need to get much better and more creative on third down.

4.1: The opposition’s yards per rush

The run defense stabilized after a horrid stretch in the first half of the season, but it still took a significant step backward this past season. The 4.1 yards allowed per carry was right around the league average, but it was the most the Ravens have allowed in franchise history. They have invested a ton of money on their defensive front with the expectation that it would be much better than average. They need to be more stout and do a better job of setting the edge in 2018.

5: Sacks the Ravens got from their interior front

The Ravens had 41 sacks in 2017 and 19 of them came from the starting edge-rush duo of Terrell Suggs and Matthew Judon and an additional 8½ were from defensive backs. Meanwhile, the cadre of interior defensive linemen had just five total sacks, including 3½ from Willie Henry. Michael Pierce had just one sack, Carl Davis had a half sack and Brandon Williams had none. In fairness to them, they didn’t play much on passing downs, but the Ravens need to get much more inside pressure on passing plays.

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10: Passing touchdowns allowed to tight ends and fullbacks

A propensity to lose tight ends, particularly in the red zone, was on display all season but was particularly evident in London, where the Ravens allowed three receiving touchdowns to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Marcedes Lewis, who had three touchdown catches in the previous three seasons combined. The problems continued in a Week 14 loss to the Steelers, when tight ends Jesse James and Vance McDonald combined for 14 catches for 149 yards, and again in the regular-season finale, when they allowed the Bengals’ Tyler Kroft to catch two touchdown passes. New defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale needs to figure out a way to get the defense to cover tight ends better next year.

46: Points the Ravens scored in the first quarter this season


Slow starts were a huge problem for Marty Mornhinweg’s offense all year. The Ravens were outscored in one quarter this season and it was the first as they gave up 50 points over the first 15 minutes and scored only 46. The Ravens didn’t score a first-quarter touchdown in the final eight weeks of the season, and they had just three offensive touchdowns in the first quarter all year. They have to be much better at the start of games next season. It’s as simple as that.

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