After playing the first four games on the schedule, the Baltimore Ravens are tied with the Steelers atop the AFC North. With three wins and one loss, the team would be in the playoffs if the regular season ended today.
The official NFL team rankings, combined with Football Outsider’s DVOA measurement - which compares team efficiency based on situation and opponent - show the Ravens defense playing at a high level while the offense has room for improvement.
The Baltimore Ravens currently possess the #1 total defense in the NFL, allowing the least yards per game and the 3rd least yards per play. The Ravens third down defense is much improved, allowing conversions on 36% of third down plays, the 8th best rate in the NFL. The Ravens are allowing 18 points per game, the 7th least. After adjusting for expectations, Football Outsiders ranks the Ravens as the 4th best total defense among all 32 teams.
The Ravens pass defense is ranked 3rd, after allowing less than 200 yards passing per game on average. They have allowed the 6th most passing touchdowns in the league, but have offset these scores by posting five interceptions, a figure that is tied for 4th most in the NFL. In terms of sacks, the Ravens have accumulated nine through four games, tied for 12th most in the league. Dean Pees defense has only allowed a single play of more than 40 yards through the air so far. Football Outsiders' statistical analysis slots the Ravens as the 11th best pass defense.
Run defense has also been a strength. The Ravens have the 5th best run defense, averaging 80 yards per game on the ground and the 10th best in yards per rush, at 3.7 yards per carry allowed. The team has only allowed two rushing touhdowns, a total that matches the fumbles they have created on run plays. In terms of big plays, the run defense has allowed two rushes of more than 20 yards and one of more than 40. The Ravens have the #1 run defense in the NFL according to Football Outsiders.
Baltimore’s offense has not been as effective as their defense. The team has posted the 19th most yards per game, a 346-yard average, and the 27th most yards per play, at less than 5 yards per snap. The Ravens are tied for 18th best scoring offense, averaging three touchdowns per contest. On third down, they have converted 39% of the time, the 19th best mark in the league. The Ravens have the 25th best total defense using DVOA.
The passing offense is middle of the pack. The Ravens are tied for 16th with 252 yards per game with the 17th most completions of more than 20 yards and 40 yards. The team have scored four passing touchdowns compared to four interceptions - 4th and 9th worst, respectively. The maligned offensive line has given up eight sacks, another total near the median. Football Outsiders considered the Ravens to be the 25th best passing offense through four games.
Statistically speaking, the Ravens rushing offense is actually better than their passing offense. Football Outsiders ranks the team’s running results as the 21st best in the league. In terms of rushing yardage, the Ravens have averaged the 16th most yards per game and 21st most yards per attempt. The team has three rushing touchdowns and two fumbles. Big plays on the ground have been lacking, the Ravens have only a single rush of more than 20 yards.
It should not be surprising that the Ravens special teams are among the best in the NFL. Football Outsider’s ranks their special teams as 2nd best in the league. Justin Tucker has made the 3rd most field goals and Sam Koch has the 14th best punting average. The Ravens are averaging 30-yards per kick return, the best of any team, but the 21st most average punt return yards. The coverage units are 3rd best at covering kicks and 25th best at covering punts. The Ravens have blocked two field goals and one extra point so far.
Perhaps the most important stat in all of football is turnover differential. The Ravens currently rank tied for 18th in this crucial measurement, with a - 1 differential. The team has the 12th most takeaways and and 9th most giveaways.
The Ravens have posted the 6th best time of possession average, with over 32 minutes per game. The team is averaging the 14th least penalty yards per game so far this season.
The Baltimore Ravens defensive coaches and players deserve credit for facilitating the 3-1 record. In order for the Ravens to maintain their current position in the AFC standings through the final three quarters of the season, the offensive must find more big plays.