Are Hyper-Efficient Ravens More Lucky Than Good?

Michael Salfino
January 4, 2024 11:28 AM

Or are they the master of the little things that we typically don’t focus on for projection purposes?

There is a stat that puts into one bucket all the little things that we normally don’t think much of for projection purposes – field position, penalties, kicking game, punt returns and punt coverage, red zone success, third-down success, sacks, and, yes, turnovers.

(Turnovers are great at describing who won but good luck in predicting how turnovers will sort out in any game.)

When teams are super efficient at converting yards into points (the NFL average is a point every 15.4 yards) and/or requiring the opponent to gain more yards than average per point, that means that they’re doing most if not all of these things well.

Subtracting the defensive number (where higher is better) from the offensive number (where lower is better) gives us one team number for overall scoring efficiency.

Yards Per Point

The Ravens are 12.84 yards per point on offense (second best after the Cowboys) and force their opponents to gain 18.38 yards per point on defense (NFL best).

That team efficiency number of 5.54 is by far the best in football.

Their advantage vs. second-best San Francisco is greater than the difference between the eighth and the 18th teams.

Here’s the entire list through Week 17:

RkTmYards Per Point ForYards per Point AgainstTotal
1Baltimore Ravens12.8418.385.54
2San Francisco 49ers13.7417.723.98
3Dallas Cowboys12.4816.113.64
4Buffalo Bills13.716.662.95
5Tampa Bay Buccaneers15.0217.392.37
6Las Vegas Raiders14.9616.841.88
7New Orleans Saints15.0616.691.62
8Denver Broncos13.9515.41.45
9Cincinnati Bengals15.2116.551.35
10Green Bay Packers14.8716.141.27
11Jacksonville Jaguars15.1516.040.88
12Pittsburgh Steelers17.0217.810.79
13Philadelphia Eagles13.5314.060.53
14Kansas City Chiefs15.9316.220.28
15Seattle Seahawks15.0515.310.25
16Houston Texans15.5815.750.18
17Indianapolis Colts14.2314.390.16
18Los Angeles Rams15.2715.25-0.02
19Miami Dolphins13.5813.35-0.24
20Los Angeles Chargers15.7115.33-0.38
21Detroit Lions14.6914.04-0.65
22Minnesota Vikings16.8615.91-0.95
23Chicago Bears15.1114.03-1.08
24Tennessee Titans16.5615.37-1.18
25Cleveland Browns14.3112.89-1.42
26Atlanta Falcons17.4115.56-1.85
27Arizona Cardinals16.2713.18-3.09
28Washington Commanders16.112.86-3.25
29New York Jets17.1813.78-3.4
30New York Giants18.1814.74-3.44
31New England Patriots19.6413.96-5.68
32Carolina Panthers18.2711.72-6.55

The Ravens are eighth in third-down conversions on offense, and seventh in red zone conversions on offense.

And on defense in those stats, they are sixth and second, respectively. Shockingly, given they have Justin Tucker, they have allowed a higher field goal percentage than Tucker’s. (The opponent field-goal percentage is the luckiest of stats.)

The Ravens are 23rd in turnover percentage on offense and fourth-best on defense. (Opponent turnovers are mostly random.)

Penalties are a wash. Return TDs on special teams and defense for vs. allowed are a wash.

The Ravens have a big edge in the low-key most important stat in football – sacks (20 more by their defense than allowed).

So it’s conversion rate (third down and red zone), turnovers, and sacks that are causing the Ravens to have such a massive edge here.

Should we expect the Ravens in the postseason to continue to dominate in these areas?

Let’s see what happened in their three losses (Colts, at Steelers, Browns).

They won sacks in the three games 13-10. They won the red zone 50% to 33%. T

hey lost third downs 41.5% to 34.2%. But most importantly, they lost turnover 7-3.

The QBs who beat them were Gardner Minshew, Kenny Pickett, and DeShaun Watson, an unimpressive trio we wouldn’t expect to limit turnovers, showing how unstable that stat can be.

Is Scoring Efficiency Another Feather in Lamar’s Cap?

We can argue that the Ravens are simply well-coached.

They limit their pass attempts (which cuts their turnover risk and sacks), throwing 148 fewer times than their opponents.

Their running game is efficient enough to present makeable third downs; Baltimore has faced 82 offensive thirds and longs vs. the 101 opponents that have attempted to convert against their defense.

And 28.3% of Baltimore’s third downs are third and short vs. 25.5% by opponents.

Their running strength (third in efficiency) is key to their red zone success.

We can also reason that the offensive side of the stat is arguably driven by QB play and the Ravens have the league MVP in Lamar Jackson.

Consider that the Patriots for nearly 20 years dominated this stat with startling consistency when Tom Brady was under their control.

This year, with Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe, the Patriots rank 31st in the statistics.

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