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Joe Flacco Gets His First Major Test Against The Steelers Next Monday

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There's very little one can say about the early play of rookie Delaware QB Joe Flacco other than, 'not bad, kid'. Through two games, Flacco is perfect in the most meaningful of statistical columns: the win column.

When you look at how the offense has performed, however, in the Ravens' first two performances against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns, you immediately scratch your head and wonder 'how are they 2-0 again?' Duh, it's the economy Browns and Bengals, stupid.

Here are Baltimore's league ranks in the primary three traditional statistical categories: rushing offense (30), passing offense (28), total offense (30)***. While total offense (total yards per game) may be an inefficient number with which to measure a team (because not all yards are created equal, damnit), looking at Baltimore's points per game is even less telling. At 22.5 pts per game, one might initially think that the Ravens offense is doing allright. Not great, but not terrible.  But that's including the one INT return for a TD that actually accounts for 6 of their 45 total points, or roughly 13%. And through just two games, the Baltimore defense has created 5 takeaways for their offense. In other words, I suppose, the Ravens offense has taken advantage of the opportunities given to them by their defense, but have yet to really put together many impressive, sustained drives.

(*** Total skewed because of just two games being played by Baltimore. Their rushing yards per game is actually the 2nd best in the league. Passing? Still miserable).

How about how Baltimore's offense as measured by Football Outsiders' metrics.  The Raven's Offensive DVOA is the 13th best in the league. So what does that mean? Well, in a nutshell it means they may not be piling up gobs of yards, but they're making the most of what they do accumulate, as well as performing better than can be expected if all teams were to be presented with similar situations.

It's worth noting for example, that Baltimore's sporting the 9th best 3rd Down % in the league. Oh, and wouldn't it be nice if our QB could say he's only been sacked once through two games?

Anyway, as we'll discuss soon enough, it's been all about the defense for Baltimore. They stymied Carson Palmer and his Bengals in Week 1, then frustrated a pressing Derek Anderson led Browns offense in Week 3, after an unexpected early BYE due to tempermental weather in the Gulf Coast that gave them an extra week to prepare and rest up.

Just for fun's sake, let's take a look at Joe Flacco's first two games compared to Ben Roethlisberger's first two. 

vs CIN / 9.7.08 Passing Rushing
Comp Att Pct Yds TD Rush Yds Avg TD
Joe Flacco 15 29 51.7 129 0 4 37 9.3 1


vs CLE / 9.21.08 Passing Rushing
Comp Att Pct Yds TD Rush Yds Avg TD
Joe Flacco 13 19 68.4 129 0 6 -2 -0.3 0

Ben Roethlisberger:


Week 3 vs. Miami: 12 of 22 (54.5%), 163 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Week 4 vs. Cincinnati: 17 of 25 (68%), 174 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT


Odlly similar, really. Ben was able to throw one fewer interception than Flacco in his first two starts, but other than that, not much difference. That's not to try to prove anything, or to say Joe Flacco will be as good as Ben Roethlisberger. Simply that like 2004 in Pittsburgh, the Ravens in 2008 have been getting stready enough QB play out of their 1st round rookie to allow their defense to win them football games.

For us, that might be bad news. We may need to rely on a few turnovers to counteract what should be a ferocious and constantly blitzing Ravens defense. If Joe Flacco is able to protect the football in Heinz Field during his first Monday Night Football appearance, we may be in for a dog fight. Something tells me though that we'll confuse the rookie Blue Hen.

What do you think?