Ravens Pose a Stiff Challenge for Hundley
The Chicago Bears’ so-so pass defense proved to be a good match-up for Green Bay. Brett Hundley had his best game as a pro, as was reflected in his passer rating of 110.8.
Every opponent the Packers have faced this year, other than the Lions (25th), is in the top half of the league in pass defense: Bengals, 5th; Falcons, 6th; Saints, 7th; Bears, 10th; Vikings, 12th; Seahawks 13th; and Cowboys, 14th.
Guess what — things just got tougher. The Ravens rank third in the NFL in pass defense, giving up only 185 yards through the air per game. Nor will it get better the following week, when the Packers travel to Pittsburgh to face the NFL’s second stingiest pass defense.
To digress for a moment, Jacksonville remarkably ranks first, yielding only 165 passing yards per game. They built up a strong defensive backfield with all those high draft choices, right? Not at all.
Yes, cornerback Jalen Ramsey was the fifth overall draft pick in 2016. But after that, the premise crumbles. Safety Tashaun Gipson spent his first four years with Cleveland. Safety Barry Church was with the Cowboys for seven years. The other cornerback, A.J. Bouye, spent his first four years with the Texans.
But what’s mind boggling is that the latter three players all went undrafted.
Jacksonville is the same team that kept Davon House on its bench for almost all of 2016. Prince Amukamara, who beat out Davon for the job, is now in the midst of a one-year deal with the Bears for $7 million – he’s having a quiet season in the Windy City.
Ravens: Experience vs. Inexperience
But back to those Ravens. They’ve tended to feast on inexperienced and lesser quarterbacks. They held the Vikings and Case Keenum to 188 passing yards, Miami and Matt Moore to 151; the Bengals and Andy Dalton to 144; Oakland and E.J. Manuel to 159; and Chicago and Mitch Trubisky to 111. Yeah, it’s the same Trubisky who went for 297 yards against the Packers on Sunday.
The Ravens are excelling with a defensive backfield that features only one high draft choice. Cornerback Jimmy Smith was a first-round draft pick in 2011, but in his seventh year, all with the Ravens, he’s hardly a household name. Their other cornerback, Brandon Carr, was a fifth-round pick out of Grand Valley State – he’s now in his 10th year.
Both of the Ravens starting safeties went undrafted. Free safety Eric Weddle, now in his 11th year, nine of which were with the Chargers, has been named All-Pro five times. Strong safety Tony Jefferson spent his previous four years with the Cardinals.
Unlike most positions, there’s just no rhyme nor reason when it comes to foretelling which players will become solid defensive backs in the NFL.
Green Bay and Baltimore Comparisons
Counting this year, that’s 33 years in the league for the Ravens’ foursome. By comparison, the Packers’ fivesome (House, Randall, Clinton-Dix, Jones, and King were all in on at least two-thirds of the snaps in Chicago) have been in the league for just 16 years.
When it comes to team defense, Baltimore is giving up four fewer points per game than Green Bay is, 19.0 to 23.0. That’s a decided advantage for the Ravens.
Before you discount the usefulness of scoring averages, consider these team scoring averages going into last Sunday’s game: Green Bay 22.7 and Chicago 16.7. The final score was 23-16.
Baltimore ranks 18th in the league in scoring, with an average of 21.1 points per game. The Packers are in 14th place, though not that far better at 22.7.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco, at age 32, appears to be past his prime. His passer ratings from 2014 to now have been: 91.0, 83.1, 83.5, and 72.7. That latter number leaves him ranked 31st out of 33 qualifying QBs to date this year.
Based on the stats, it shapes up to be a low-scoring, though highly competitive affair this Sunday.