The bye week wasn't very good to the Ravens, with Pittsburgh closing the gap in the division and New England continuing to make a statement about the conference. But it was better for giving an injured team some time to regroup and start planning for the rest of the season. And without a game this weekend, it was good for giving me a chance to compile some statistics.
I've taken a few key stats based on the first 7 games and extrapolated them through the 16 game season (current total in parentheses). Do you think the estimate is too high or too low? I've provided some of my thoughts here.
- Passing yards: 4199 (1837) -- This seems about right, but if you need to pick one side, take the over. Fact is, it's going to be tough for Flacco to have more games as bad as Houston and St. Louis; the fact that he's projecting over 4000 including those two says a lot about the strength of his performances in the other games so far.
Passing TDs: 20.6 (9) -- Definitely take the over. He threw 20 TDs last year even though he was passing a lot less, and now that he's discovered how reliable Pitta can be in the red zone, and how much Jacoby can help stretch the field for deep plays, there's no reason for the number to go down.
INTs: 13.7 (6) -- Unfortunately, this would be a career high for Flacco. Still, I think we've got to take the over. When you throw more passes, you throw more INTs (unless you're Aaron Rodgers), and Joe has been making some pretty bad decisions when the O-line doesn't give him enough time (i.e., most plays).
- Fumbles lost: 2.3 (1) -- Has to be the over. This is actually pretty low by Flacco standards so far, but he also hasn't played against Troy Polamalu yet.
- Rushing yards: 1198 (524) -- Take the over. He'll never use Rice as much as we want him to, but Cam seems to figure out around the bye every year that Rice is the best player on offense and needs more touches. Add in increasingly poor passing weather and Rice's yardage will go above the projection. An under would be the first time Rice has ever finished below 1200 when starting a complete season.
- TDs: 11.4 (5) -- Have to pick the under on this one. The O-line just isn't solid enough to pave the way for those red zone touchdowns we saw so many times last year. If Rice wants TDs, he'll either need new blockers or will have to break more difficult long runs.
- Receptions: 57.1 (25) -- This smells like an under to me. Smith's role in Cam's offense is quality, not quantity. That is, if the ball is going to him, it's at least 20 yards downfield. Those passes aren't completed often, and other teams have wised up to the act and are doubling him more (which is partly why Jacoby and Pitta are getting more catches).
- Sacks: 27.4 (12) -- In my opinion, Terrell Suggs is basically Superman. If they got 11 so far without him, they can get a whole lot more with him. Way over.
- 100-yard rushers allowed: 2.3 (1) -- Remember when the Ravens went entire seasons at a time without allowing 100-yard rushers? Now they're trying to go games at a time. Note that they've only given up one so far (Jamaal Charles); all the rest of the embarrassing games have been close to 100 but not quite there (e.g., Arian Foster capped out at 98). And note that there were some pretty darn good RBs held far below 100 (Trent Richardson, LeSean McCoy, Stevan Ridley). I think the team will continue to give up huge numbers on the ground, but individuals will still have trouble passing 100. For that reason, I'll take the under, predicting specifically that they'll give up one more on the season for 2 total.
- Sacks: 6.9 (3.0) -- Ngata actually led the team in sacks while Suggs was out. He really stepped up and is on pace to set a career high in single season sacks (currently 6.0 in 2010). Having Suggs back to draw some O-line attention should help (as I said, the guy is just a monster), but I'm not convinced that Ngata will be over his MCL sprain for a while. Even with an MCL tweak, Ngata still eats linemen like hot dogs, but he'll have some trouble getting all the way in to the QB. I think he was playing on overdrive a little to make up for Suggs being down and won't be able to keep up the numbers, even though he'll come close. I give this one a narrow under (maybe 6.0 or 6.5).
- INTs: 4.6 (2) -- For a guy who wants a new contract, Reed sure isn't putting up the INTs you'd expect. But he's still got time to make a statement, and if QBs actually start feeling pressure now that Suggs is back in the lineup, it should help them make some bad decisions that Reed can capitalize on. Note also that even though he's certainly slowed down a step, 4 INTs in a complete season would be Reed's second lowest ever in a full season (lowest was last year with 3). I think Reed makes the over, thanks in part to the two games he still has coming against one of his favorite INT-tossers, Ben Roethlisberger.
- Tackles: 75.4 (33) -- McClain making tackles isn't necessarily a good thing: it means the D-line failed to contain the RB, and he's made it out to the second level. Maybe that's why McClain averaged 3.5 tackles per game in the first four games (when opposing teams averaged just 90 rushing yards per game) but averaged 6.3 tackles per game in the next three (when opposing teams averaged 207 rushing yards per game). That means you should probably be hoping his numbers drop. At the same time, there will probably be an increase due to Ray Lewis's absence (McClain averaged more tackles in the four games without Lewis last year than in those with Lewis), so not all of those tackles will continue the bad narrative. Between Lewis being out, which should raise the number, and my hero Suggs helping against the run, which should lower it, I'd call it for about a wash, with the Lewis effect probably bigger than the Suggs. Therefore, I'll take the over on this one.
So, that's our season projections. Some of the numbers (like Flacco TDs and INTs) aren't very encouraging, but others (passing yards, Ngata sacks) are pretty nice looking. As we've learned from this team, though, nothing's final until they're on the field, so we'll have to wait and see how they execute over the next 9 games.