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Baltimore Ravens Offensive Line: Overrated?

The Ravens revamped offensive line earned lots of praise in the postseason. But was it deserved?

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most prevalent narratives of the 2012 Ravens Super Bowl run was that the newly-effective Baltimore Ravens' offense was the result of a revamped Ravens offensive line.

According to conventional wisdom, John Harbaugh pulled off a masterful piece of coaching by moving Michael Oher to right tackle, Bryant McKinnie to left tackle, and Kelechi Osemele to left guard. This solidified the Ravens offensive line and was a key element in allowing them to reach a Super Bowl.

The hope is that the changes that were made to the offensive line in the 2012 postseason will be made permanent for the 2013 season, allowing Joe Flacco to continue the success that he had during the Ravens Super Bowl run.

But was the revamped offensive line really that successful in the first place? Michael Bonzagni of ESPN Stats and Info argued hat the improved play of the Ravens offensive line was one of the key factors in the Ravens playoff success. He writes that Flacco was sacked less and had more time to throw during the playoffs then he did in the regular season, directly leading to the Ravens postseason wins.

Not only that, he points out that the Ravens' running attack was much more effective at running to the right in the postseason then it was during the regular season.

But Bonzagni doesn't tell the whole story. First of all, while the Ravens running attack was more effective running to the right, it was less effective overall. The Ravens averaged 3.9 yards per rush attempt in the post season, compared to 4.3 yards per rush attempt in the regular season.

The 3.9 yards per rush was the third worst average yards per run of all playoff teams, ahead of only Green Bay and Denver. So even if the Ravens were better when rushing to the right side, any gains were offset when they rushed up the middle or to the left, making them a below average running team during the postseason.

And while Joe Flacco played very well during the playoffs, advanced statistics suggest that it might not be the result of the Ravens offensive line. According to the site, the Ravens offensive line ranked the worst out of all playoff teams in several metrics, including estimated points added and win probability added. And while there are several problems with both of those stats, it does illustrate that the Ravens offensive line was not the world beater that many NFL pundits advertised it to be during last year's Super Bowl run.

None of this is to say that the Ravens will be a bad team next year. That the Ravens offensive line held up as well as it did during better defenses in the playoffs, even if it wasn't as good as everyone says, is a victory in and of itself. I personally think the Ravens offense will be average or slightly below average next year. And there is no shame in that.

But the notion that Joe Flacco will be able to maintain the high level of play he showed during last year's post-season because this is the best offensive line he has ever played behind is false. The reason that Flacco played well in last year's playoff is simple: he is incredibly inconsistent, but has the capacity to look like one of the game's best quarterbacks for a couple of games in a row.

Those games just happened to come about during the playoffs. The key to the Ravens success remains what it has been for the last five: Flacco needs to show he can perform at the same high level every Sunday. If he does that, we won't need to be nearly as worried about our offensive line anymore.