The Baltimore Ravens are facing a team this Sunday with a rookie QB having a solid first NFL season on a team with a very good defense and running and oh yeah, is fighting for a playoff spot in the AFC North. Sound familiar? It should, Ravens fans, because in many ways, you are looking at a mirror image of the Baltimore Ravens in 2008 and an unheralded rookie out of a college football sub-division conference. That Delaware product was named Joe Flacco and he was thrust into the starting role ahead of schedule and hasn't missed a single game since then.
The Bengals rookie QB is Andy Dalton, who was the third pick of the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft (TCU) and with the semi-retirement of long-term starter Carson Palmer, was also thrust into a starting role on a team coming off a 4-12 season. The Ravens were coming off a 5-11 2007 season prior to drafting Flacco with the 18th pick of the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Sound familiar yet?
Taking a look at Dalton's statistics for this season, there is an eerie familiarity to Flacco's rookie numbers. Flacco finished his first NFL season with a QB Rating of 80.3 and a completion rate of 60%. Dalton currently has a QB Rating of 82.6 and the exact same 60% completing rate.
If Dalton's stats are extrapolated out to a sixteen game season, it appears he will throw about 90 more passes and complete about 50 of those and finish with around 350 ore passing yards than Flacco did with a team that ran the ball a lot more than the Bengals are doing. The Ravens ran the ball almost 600 times in 2008, while the Bengals are on pace to have around 450 attempts this year.
Dalton has the benefit of the tall, big-play wide receiver in fellow rookie, A.J. Green, who already has 40 catches for over 600 yards and six TD's. Flacco had a solid possession receiver in Derrick Mason, but not the game-changer or deep threat that Dalton has enjoyed. Both teams had top-five ranked defenses and the lack of need to carry their team on their passing arms.
The similarities are also parallel by the low and reasonable expectations on the two headed into their rookie seasons. Both teams were coming off disappointing losing seasons and it is just not a coincidence their presence combined with the perfect storm of a good running game, solid defense and an offense designed to "protect" their investment has succeeded thus far.
Let's just hope that the Bengals QB doesn't look like the Ravens rookie QB did when Joe faced the Cincinnati Bengals in his first NFL career to start the 2008 regular season. Flacco was 15-29 for 129 yards and no touchdowns, but more importantly no interceptions. He also ran (or plodded) 38 yards down the right sideline for a TD in the Ravens 17-10 opening day win.