So, basically, I decided that my normal stats overview wouldn’t be enough for this game. If this is a show-me game for the Packers, I ought to put in my best effort as well. Through the lens of Football Outsiders, the matchup is a unique one for the Packers on both sides of the ball. Instead of taking you to FO, I’ve decided to bring the stats to you. I warn you that this post is not for the faint of heart – if you are anti-math, I understand if you don’t read further. Numbers, ahoy!
Let’s start with the big picture — basically, from what I said in the main Opposition Research post, the Ravens and Packers are evenly matched.
TEAM EFFICIENCY (DVOA = Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average)
|TEAM||TOTAL DVOA||LAST WEEK||W-L||OFF. RANK||DEF. RANK||S.T. RANK|
As you can see, the Packers and Ravens are neck and neck in the overall team efficiency rankings. FO takes into account strength of schedule, and while the Packers are ranked ahead of Baltimore in both offense and defense, we’re holding a comfortable lead over Pittsburgh for the worst special teams in the league.
|TEAM||S.T. DVOA||LAST WEEK||FG/XP||KICK||KICK RET||PUNT||PUNT RET|
Ugh, even looking at it makes me sad – we’re miserable in kickoff and punt coverage, and we really don’t excel in the kickoff return game. We do have a slight edge in field goals and extra points, but it can’t begin to make up for the enormous deficiencies everywhere else. Baltimore is excellent on kickoffs, so Jordy? Hang. On. To. The. Ball.
In terms of offense, one of the things I like about FO is that they don’t just rely on straight-up stats. While Rodgers’ 344 yds/3TD performance was impressive, it was against the Lions, who really suck. I don’t necessarily think that they suck enough that scoring only 27 points should move the Packers from 4th to 8th on offense, but I don’t make the rules.
|TEAM||OFF DVOA||LAST WEEK||PASS OFF||PASS RANK||RUSH OFF||RUSH RANK|
We’d all like to say that Rodgers is far and away a better passer than Flacco, but when FO adjusts for schedules (and sacks), the teams are fairly comparable in the passing game. So, to my surprise, are the teams on the ground. But here’s an eye-opener:
Even with Rodgers boasting 9 more passing TDs and 2 fewer INTs, when you adjust for the yards Rodgers has lost on 44 sacks, Flacco comes out ahead as a pure passer. Surprised? You shouldn’t be – he had a stellar game against the Vikings in W6. That, and his offensive line has kept him fairly upright despite his limited mobility (24 sacks).
Now, when you look at QBs on the run, Rodgers is second to none, while Flacco is second-to-last (KC’s Cassel brings up the rear). The Ravens let Dennis Dixon run 24 yds into the end zone last week, so this may be something the Packers can use.
I’m not going to go deep into the WR discussion on the offensive side, because I think the key matchup for this game is going to come from the running backs. Take Ryan Grant and Ray Rice.
Looking at the ground game more closely, it appears that Rice and Grant are neck-and-neck in several of FO’s metrics (DYAR = defense-adjusted yards above replacement, EYds = Effective Yards, Success Rate = rate play results in 1st down or TD), but the place where Rice has a leg up is in DVOA, which FO describes as “a running back with more value per play.” Simply put, Ray Rice makes more of his rushing opportunities than does Ryan Grant.
Where Rice really pwns Grant, though, is in the passing game. If the Packers want to even the score a little in this area, expect to see more screens to Grant (or, more likely, Jackson) and flip plays like this one. As you’ll see below, it’s one of the few areas where the Baltimore defense is mediocre.
Switching sides to the defensive side of the ball, FO puts the Packers at #1, even though they’ve had the easiest schedule in the league up to this point (BAL = 9th hardest).
|TEAM||DEF DVOA||LAST WEEK||PASS DEF||PASS RANK||RUSH DEF||RUSH RANK|
3rd against both the pass and the run…looks pretty good for the Pack, right? Well, let’s look a little closer.
PASSING DEFENSE V. TYPES OF RECEIVERS
vs. #1 WR
vs. #2 WR
vs. Other WR
While they are extremely effective against the rest of the receiver corps, the Packers are surprisingly poor against #1 WRs. Going up against Derrick Mason, Joe Flacco’s primary target, this will be a challenge for Dom Capers’ defense. The Ravens, meanwhile, appear to be fairly pedestrian against all opposing wideouts, and with CB Fabian Washington on IR, these rankings may be heading south as the season wears on. (Caveat – Green Bay has yet to be challenged by a strong WR tandem, which would expose the holes in our own secondary. Luckily, the Ravens don’t threaten much in this regard. Mark Clayton was a 1st round pick in 2005, and can get the YAC, but with the Steelers smothering Mason, Flacco had few other options.)
Where the rubber hits the road for the Packer passing defense is against tight ends, where the Packers are tops – thanks in large part to Charles Woodson’s roving LB-CB-S role against Witten, Winslow, and Davis. What I said earlier about expecting more from Grant in the passing game? Well, it’s the weakest part of Baltimore’s passing defense, by a good margin. I don’t think we can expect Jermichael Finley to have a breakout game, but I would not be surprised to see Brandon Jackson gobbling chunks of yardage in key situations.
So, what do all these stats tell me?
- This will be a hard-fought game on both sides of the ball. When everything is boiled down, the teams are very similar.
- Rodgers sets himself apart from Flacco with his feet, not his arm.
- Ray Rice is dangerous on the ground or out of the backfield, but Green Bay should be able to mirror some of Rice’s effectiveness with screens to Grant and Jackson.
- I expect Charles Woodson to reprise his role from the Lions game – cover their #1 receiver and make plays wherever possible. Heap isn’t enough of a threat at TE to warrant Woodson’s overwhelming attention, although Rice must be accounted for by more than LBs.
What do these stats tell you?