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Ravens Still Prospering In Offensively Oriented NFL

December 19, 2013

OWINGS MILLS -- The way the Ravens have been consistent contenders during a salary-cap-oriented era is nothing short of amazing.

With five straight postseason appearances and nine during the last 13 seasons, Baltimore -- which can add to those totals as soon as Week 16 with a win against New England and losses by Miami and San Diego -- has marked its territory as one of the league's most consistent franchises.

The cap is a tool that helps build a team, but it doesn't have as much to do with the results it produces on the scoreboard. 

So, what do all of the Ravens' playoff teams have in common, besides savvy player personnel decisions upstairs and clutch play on the field?

Not one of those Ravens postseason squads -- or, for that matter, any team in franchise history -- has ever scored as many as 400 points during a season. The team's single-season record is 398 points, set a year ago.

It has been a testimony to one of the league's most consistent defenses -- the franchise has allowed 400 points during a season once, yielding 441 in 1996 -- that the Ravens have stayed among the league's elite teams for so long. 

It is especially true this year.

After approximately three decades' worth of expansion, as well as rule changes slanted to help offenses and boost scoring totals -- some of them in response to the evolution of faster, stronger defenders -- 2013 could be the highest-scoring season in NFL history.

With 224 of the league's 256 regular-season games having been played, 10,632 total points have been put on the board, an average of 47.4 per contest. Cutting the latter figure in half, it means that each team is scoring an average of 23.7 points per game. 

The last two weeks alone have exacerbated that trend, even in the face of inclement weather in many locations. During Week 14, there were 859 points scored, followed by an 844-point Week 15 barrage. The 1,703 points scored between those two weeks is the highest in league history during a span of that length.

There are two games left during the regular season for each team, so if every squad played to the average and scored 23 or 24 points during each of those games, the league would wind up with at least 12 teams at the 400 mark.

That's because 12 is the number of teams that have either already reached 400 points or have a reasonably good chance to get to that figure, because they currently have 353 or more points.

It's a list that includes seven of the eight teams currently leading their divisions, with AFC South champion Indianapolis being the exception (338). The list also includes contenders such as Kansas City, Green Bay and Detroit.

That list does not include the Ravens, who are currently 25th in the league at 21.1 points per game and 296 total points, one of eight teams with fewer than 300 and the only one of that group with a winning record. 

In fact, even though the league average is 23.7 per contest, the Ravens' single-season franchise record is 24.9, set last year.

This year, Baltimore is behind the curve, with the team having scored less than the league average during 10 of 14 games. The Ravens have won five of those 10 games.

When the Ravens have scored more than the league average -- tallying 27 points at Denver, 30 against Houston, 26 at Miami and 29 versus Minnesota -- their record is 3-1.

Some observers have argued for years that the league's usual standard for ranking offenses and defenses -- yards gained and allowed -- should instead be changed to points scored and yielded.

That argument gains merit when looking solely at the Ravens' history.

In 2000, when Baltimore fielded one of the best single-season defenses in league history, it set a 16-game-schedule record for points allowed with 165, or 10.5 per game. The 2000 Tennessee Titans -- a team the Ravens eliminated during the Divisional Round of that season's playoffs -- gave up fewer yards.

Six years later, the Ravens were ranked as the league's top defense, yielding 264.1 yards per game during a 13-3 season. 

But after enjoying a first-round playoff bye, Baltimore lost during the Divisional Round to the eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, whose defense -- one that held the Ravens out of the end zone, holding them to two field goals during a 15-6 win -- was the league's 12th worst as far as yards allowed.

In other words, some stats can sometimes lie. But, as coaches, players and fans have known for years, points can make a point.

And even though the Ravens haven't scored as many as some other teams have, their outward defense and inward resiliency have made them amazing to watch.

Joe Platania is in his 20th season covering professional football.