The formula for the 2015 Broncos on their Super Bowl run was simple: great defense with just enough offense.
The Broncos led the NFL in total defense in 2015, and despite having Brock Osweiler and a shell of Peyton Manning at quarterback, Denver went on to win the Super Bowl.
The Ravens are built in a similar way in 2017. The Ravens have great defense, and at times, just enough offense. The problem is, unlike the 2015 Broncos, the Ravens offense is too much of a burden for the defense to carry.
The Broncos finished 16th in total offense in 2015. The team averaged 355.5 yards per game and scored 22.2 points per game. The 2017 Ravens are 31st in total offense. They are averaging 279.8 points per game, 21.3 points per game and have the worst yards per play average in the NFL: 4.3 (more than a yard less per play than the 2015 Broncos).
Looking at the defenses, Denver led the NFL in fewest yards allowed per game in 2015 with 283.1. In addition they allowed the least yards per play (4.4) and the fourth fewest points per game (18.5). The 2017 Ravens sixth ranked total defense is allowing over 20 more yards per game than the 2015 Broncos did. However, the Ravens in 2017 are doing better than the 2015 Broncos in terms of points allowed per game, allowing 1.4 fewer points per game.
The Ravens defense is good, there is no debating that. It’s a unit that has produced three shutouts this season. The problem is, it’s not good enough to pull the Ravens. The Broncos defense in 2015 was exceptional, but it did have an offense that, to an extent, was capable. The Ravens offense, on the other hand, is inept.
Against Green Bay, the Ravens defense forced five turnovers, and the offense mustered just 23 points against the then 24th ranked total defense in the NFL. While everyone has gotten caught up with Alex Collins, it took him until Week 11 to get his first touchdown. Getting that first touchdown took a Marlon Humphrey interception that gave the Ravens the ball inside the Packers five yard line. It’s worth keeping in mind that Brett Hundley, Brett Hundley, alone out gained the entire Ravens team. Even when shutting out the opponent, Baltimore was out gained by a backup quarterback. To put it frankly, the Ravens offense is not good.
It’s not like the Ravens offense was good before the major injuries kicked in either. With or without Marshal Yanda in the lineup, the Ravens struggled to move the ball. The offense is a liability. It’s one that cost the Ravens a home game against the Bears. It’s one that got the Ravens embarrassed in consecutive weeks by the Jaguars and Steelers respectively.
The Ravens schedule is favorable the rest of the way, and one that could lead to the Ravens squeaking into the playoffs. If Baltimore gets there, don’t expect a run like the one made by the 2015 Broncos who, let’s not forget, were the one seed anyway. As things stand now, Baltimore would face the Jaguars in Jacksonville in the first round. The Jaguars are the NFL leader in total defense. If the Ravens could only muster 23 points while forcing five turnovers against the Packers, whether or not January Joe shows up, Baltimore’s streak of winning a first round playoff game under John Harbaugh is coming to a close.
All in all, the 2017 Ravens and 2015 Broncos both were built on defense leading the team. However, Denver’s 2015 offense at least provided some help along the way to the Super Bowl. The offense of the 2017 Ravens has provided no such aid to the defense. The Ravens offensive shortcomings are significantly more pronounced than that Broncos team. No matter how well the Ravens defense plays, if the Ravens offense stays this bad, then the Ravens will get nowhere in the playoffs, if they even make it. In the Ravens’ five wins this season, only once has the opponent scored more than 10 points (17 for the Raiders in Week 5). The defense can’t be expected to pitch a shutout every week. This defense is good, but it’s not historically good. The defense can’t take the Ravens anywhere alone.