It’s not time for fans to worry about the Ravens – yet

It’s not time for fans to worry about the Ravens originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

If you’ve been on Twitter the last few days, you may have noticed some surprising consternation from Ravens fans.

Sure, Baltimore has won four of its five games this season, with each win coming by at least two touchdowns. But, compared to last season especially, the offense has looked inconsistent.

Sure, they’ve scored a fair amount of points (at least 30 points in three of their five games, and at least 20 in the other two) — it comes out to 29.8 points per game and the eighth-highest total in the NFL. Still, it’s hard to argue with complaints about regression from Lamar Jackson and the offense as a whole.

Jackson looks off, and his stats have suffered coming off his unanimous MVP campaign. Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown struggled mightily in a very public game on Monday Night Football in Week 3, which has partially overshadowed their contributions in the season’s other four weeks.

Mark Ingram has been a much less efficient runner so far in 2020, leading some to question if the Ravens might be better served handing the keys to backups Gus Edwards and rookie JK Dobbins.

It all comes back to Jackson, though. Last season, the Ravens had one of the most efficient offenses in NFL history. This season, their offense is 17th, according to DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average).

The good news? Even while a young offense works through some issues, the Ravens as a whole have still dominated.

DVOA measures an NFL team’s overall efficiency, and the Ravens come out with easily the best number through 2020’s first five weeks. They are just 17th in offensive efficiency, but third in defensive and first in special teams – no surprise given John Harbaugh’s background.

The Ravens’ total DVOA so far is 33.9%. Teams ranked from two through seven range from 23.7% to 26.4%, so there’s a sizable gap between Baltimore and everybody else. And that’s with the terrible Monday Night Football loss weighing as one-fifth of their games played so far.

In fact, in the past three seasons, only one team has managed to top Baltimore’s 33.9% – the 2019 Ravens, who finished the season at a ridiculous 41.2%. And considering the team’s 17th-ranked offense is sure to rise in the coming weeks as Lamar Jackson continues to develop a rhythm – and the team potentially adds outside receiving help – it’s likely that this season’s number goes up. This is, after all, largely the same roster as last season’s record-setting unit.

Arguably the best defense in football, objectively the best special teams in football, and a young offense that was already the best in football last season? It’s no wonder the numbers love the Ravens.

These advanced stats are backed up by more traditional methods, too. The Ravens point-differential through five weeks is +73, by far the best mark in the NFL. only four other teams are even half as high as the Ravens, and no one is closer than Green Bay at +51. And again, that’s with a blowout loss to the Chiefs dragging them down.

And they’ve held up to the eye test as well, according to the national experts. Among outlets that have already released their post-Week 5 power rankings (ESPN, The Ringer, Yahoo!, Pro Football Talk, and Bleacher Report) the Ravens are a consensus top five team in the league. Two other outlets (NFL.com and The Athletic) had them as a top three team even before their 27-3 blowout win over the Bengals.

It’s important to reiterate just how young this Ravens offense is. Their quarterback and top two pass catchers are 24 or younger. Their entire starting offensive line are all still on their rookie contracts. And this group didn’t have a full, normal offseason to continue to gel together.

It’s also important to remember that dominant teams don’t always look the same in December as they did in September. Last year, the Ravens were a Steelers fumble away from finishing Week 5 at 2-3. Instead, they won 12 straight games and made offensive history in the process.

This year, they finish Week 5 at 4-1, with every win coming in dominant fashion. The fact of the matter is that you can count on one hand the number of NFL teams that wouldn’t jump at the chance to switch places with the Ravens right now.

They probably won’t ever reach the same heights of 2019, because almost no team in NFL history has. And they may even lose more games in 2020 – the AFC North looks like the most competitive division in football, after all.

But it’s too early to panic about the Ravens, even if the offense really has regressed a bit. Everybody complained after the Tennessee loss that the Ravens didn’t know how to fight through adversity because everything in the regular season came too easy to them. Now? They’re fighting through an erratic offense, and still coming away with comfortable wins in the process.

Good teams win, great teams cover. Elite teams win by two touchdowns even on “C+” days. The Ravens are fine, and barring injuries, will continue to be Super Bowl contenders all season long.

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