Five stats that stand out ahead of Sunday's Ravens-Panthers game

September 24, 2014|By Jon Meoli | The Baltimore Sun

Every Wednesday, I’ll serve up five stats you should know heading into that week’s Ravens game. This week’s stats, pertaining to Sunday's game against Carolina, will likely get lost in the shuffle, and by shuffle I mean incessant discussion of Steve Smith.

14 --  Panthers tight end Greg Olson averages 14 yards per reception (16 catches for 224 yards with a pair of touchdowns) through three games, and he could give the Ravens pass defense big problems. Before he dislocated his elbow, Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eiffert found space underneath, and Steelers tight end Heath Miller exploited the inside zone a few times as well in Week 2. Olson is the most reliable pass catcher remaining in Carolina, and a healthy Olson could victimize the Ravens in the middle of the defense.

5.97 – Quarterback Joe Flacco’s yards per pass attempt ranks 29th in the league, ahead of only New England’s Tom Brady, Oakland’s Derek Carr, and Miami’s Ryan Tannehill. His raw passing yards, 728, ranks 11th in the league, but he’s among the league leaders in pass attempts and doesn’t go downfield to anyone other than Steve Smith. That could probably work this week, since it’s safe to say safety help will be required against him this week, but Flacco needs to be more efficient passing down field, or the Ravens running game could suffer in tandem.

7.70 – Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has the exact same yards per pass attempt as Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and the two have plenty of other similar stats and traits, despite Newton missing the first game of the year. They have an almost completely identical completion percentage (66 percent). Most importantly, the Ravens can implement the same strategy they use for keeping Roethlisberger in the pocket and not allowing him to extend plays.

264 – Steelers running backs LeVeon Bell and LaGarrette Blount, who combined for 67 yards on 14 carries in Week 2 against the Ravens, exploded for 265 yards on 31 carries (8.6 yards per carry) against the Panthers on Sunday. The Ravens’ three running backs — Bernard Pierce, Justin Forsett, and Lorenzo Taliaferro — should be looking forward to the matchup, especially with outside linebacker Thomas Davis hobbled and defensive end Greg Hardy out of the fold. The Ravens have flirted with being a running team, and this would be the time to prove it.

32 – Tackles are a completely non-legitimate way to evaluate a middle linebacker like Luke Kuechly, but it is a way to get into how good he is. Kuechly is a three-down linebacker who excels in pass coverage and run defense and is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year at the level he’s been playing. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s the second-highest graded inside linebacker even with a poor game against Pittsburgh on Sunday night. The Boston College product also has one sack, three pass defenses, and a forced fumble through three games. If he’s able to stamp his impact on the game, the Ravens will have trouble moving the ball the way Pittsburgh did.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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