Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Jets face one of the league’s best in the Baltimore Ravens and the statistics highlight Baltimore’s dominance this season.

Michael Nania

Throughout the season, I’ll be previewing the New York Jets‘ opponent each week with a look at their greatest strengths and weaknesses from a statistical standpoint.

Let’s dive into some key numbers on the Baltimore Ravens heading into this Thursday night’s prime time matchup.

Ravens offense

Strength: Run game

Baltimore has unquestionably been the best offensive team in the NFL. They are tops in offensive DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) and EPA (estimated points added) while also leading the league in points per drive (2.99).

The Ravens made it a point to build a ground-and-pound attack around Lamar Jackson, a strategy that many doubted would work in today’s pass-first league. Baltimore has proven everybody wrong, dominating the league with one of the best rushing attacks the world has ever seen.

John Harbaugh’s team leads the NFL in rush attempts (478), rush yards (2,612), rushing touchdowns (18), and yards per rush attempt (5.5), while easily topping the league in both rush offense DVOA and EPA.

Baltimore’s total of 2,612 rushing yards is the ninth-most through 13 games in the Super Bowl era, and the most by any team since the 1978 Patriots.

The Ravens’ average of 5.46 yards per rush attempt is the fourth-best mark through 13 games in the Super Bowl era. The only teams ahead — the 2007 Vikings (peak Adrian Peterson), the 1997 Lions (peak Barry Sanders), and the 2006 Falcons (peak Michael Vick).

Speaking of Vick, Jackson needs just 23 rushing yards to pass him for the single-season quarterback rush yardage record. Vick set the bar with 1,039 yards in 2006, which beat Bobby Douglass’ record that had stood since 1972 (968 yards).

Weakness: Third down

The Ravens offense is dominant across the board. There simply is not an area where this team has been consistently underwhelming. We know how good the run game is. The passing attack is elite, as Jackson ranks fourth in passer rating (119.2) and the Ravens are fourth in pass offense EPA. The offensive line is excellent, ranking top-three in Pro Football Focus’ team pass and run blocking grades while placing in the top-10 of both adjusted line yards-per-carry and adjusted sack rate.

However, the Ravens offense has been somewhat quieted over the last two weeks, in a pair of battles against two of the league’s top-three defenses in terms of points allowed per drive. Against San Francisco and Buffalo’s elite defenses, the Ravens averaged 22 points and 270 yards of offense.

The area where the 49ers and Bills were able to keep Baltimore in check? Third down. The Ravens converted just 3-of-10 third-down opportunities against San Francisco, followed by 3-of-11 against Buffalo, for a combined conversion rate of just 28.6%.

Even with those two down games, Baltimore remains second in third-down conversion rate on the season (47.4%). The Ravens are a dangerous team on third down and in any other scenario, but the 49ers and Bills have shown that Baltimore can be contained to an average level if you can stop them on third down.

Buffalo and San Francisco are two of the best defenses in recent history, and the Ravens still put up at least 20 points on each. In November, the Baltimore offense dropped a combined 75 points on the Patriots and Rams, two other elite defenses.

Any weakness you weed out for this offense is nitpicking. They are otherworldly. No team has even held them under 20 points yet. Only the most perfect of defensive efforts will be capable of holding Lamar Jackson and the Ravens down.

Ravens defense

Strength: Pass defense

Baltimore has been excellent against the pass, allowing the league’s second-lowest passer rating (78.1) and ranking fifth in pass defense EPA.

The Ravens rank just 17th in sack rate, but they have still brought the heat, placing second in quarterback hits (94) behind only the Steelers (96). It’s been a team effort, as Matthew Judon has been Baltimore’s only consistent pass rusher. Judon ranks fourth in the league with 28 quarterback hits, while no other Raven has more than eight hits. Judon also leads the team with 53 pressures, which ranks 16th in the NFL, and 8.5 sacks, which ranks 19th.

The secondary has also been active for Baltimore, as the Ravens are tied for seventh in passes defended (61). Outside, the Ravens have gotten tremendous cornerback play. Brandon Carr has allowed the eighth-fewest yards per cover snap among the top 86 qualified corners (0.74). Marcus Peters (18th, 0.95) and Marlon Humphrey (28th, 1.03) also rank highly in the category. In terms of passer rating allowed, Peters (70.4), Humphrey (77.2), and Carr (85.8) rank 12th, 19th, and 30th, respectively.

Weakness: Run defense

Baltimore’s run defense has been its one consistently weak unit. The Ravens are 22nd in yards per rush attempt allowed (4.5) and 24th in rush defense EPA.

Harbaugh’s run defense has two recurring issues — power situations and big plays.

On third or fourth down with three or fewer yards to go, the Ravens have allowed a conversion 72.2% of the time, eighth-worst.

Teams have racked up long runs at a high frequency against the Baltimore defense. The Ravens have yielded 1.15 open field yards-per-carry — which is any yardage gained over 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage by a running back.

If you are going to beat the Ravens defense, you need to be able to stomp them in the trenches. It does not seem like the Jets offensive line is built for that, but perhaps the unit has a late-season shocker up its sleeves.

Special Teams’ notes: Ravens elite once again

John Harbaugh is a former special teams coach, and his care for that phase of the game shows up glaringly through Baltimore’s elite special teams’ production year after year.

The Ravens are ranked second in special teams DVOA, putting them on track to place top-six for the eighth consecutive season.

On the strength of Justin Tucker’s golden right leg, Baltimore leads the NFL with a plus-11.8 placekicking DVOA, which is also the best DVOA by any of the league’s 160 individual special teams units (placekicking, punt, kickoff, punt return, kickoff return for each of the 32 teams). Tucker has made 95.8% of his 24 field-goal attempts and 97.% of his league-high 48 extra-point attempts, missing just one of each.

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