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Inside the Numbers: Baltimore Ravens’ Special Teams Ahead of Detroit Lions in Signifcant Areas

December 15th, 2013 at 11:39 AM
By Max DeMara

With regard to both offense and defense, the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens should play to a draw on Monday night. Each defensive line is strong. Both offenses, while stout, have proven suspect at times and either secondary has been susceptible to the big play.

'Justin Tucker' photo (c) 2012, BamaJock2012 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

What variable, then, could determine victory in a close game between two fairly evenly matched teams? Special teams, of course, and that fact should should have Lions' fans downright terrified considering the numbers. The Ravens have one of the top special teams groups in the league led by John Harbaugh, who was a former special teams coach before taking over as head boss in Baltimore.

Harbaugh has kept the Ravens good. Just how good? Good enough to place themselves ahead of Detroit in every major special teams category, from field goals (second with 29 made to Detroit's 31st with 15) to opponent punt returns, where the Ravens have only allowed 708 yards to opposing team's returners to Detroit's respectable 757. Baltimore has the edge on the Lions everywhere when specialists are concerned.

Think Detroit's punting has been good behind rookie Sam Martin? That may be true, but the Ravens, with Sam Koch provide reason to think again. They've downed 23 punts inside the 20 (more than Detroit's 15) and have a very solid average and 45.3 yards per-punt. In a close game, Lions fans have already seen Martin fire off a shank leading to a loss. Koch is a steady veteran, and has been dependable for some time.

All of this isn't even to touch on the return game, where Jacoby Jones is a constant threat to take both punts and kickoffs back to the house, and he's helped Baltimore gain an edge in field position late in games. Though Detroit seems to have found their answer within the return game, Jeremy Ross has only recently become a threat. Jones has been turning that trick for some time, and has helped the Ravens collect 873 yards on kickoffs and 546 on punts, good for 12th in the league. Though Ross has gotten better lately, the Lions are still 21st with regards to the return game as a whole.

Lions' fans already know David Akers can miss indoors this season. Justin Tucker doesn't often have the luxury of kicking in comfortable confines, but when he did in 2012, he didn't miss. Tucker was 1/1 against the Cowboys in Dallas, and 2/2 in the Super Bowl. This season, he's 29/31 with a long of 53 yards. By comparison, Detroit's field goal unit is nearly dead last in the league, only converting 15/20 kicks, including a troubling 3/6 margin from 40-49 yards, a spot the Ravens are a sparkling 9/10 in 2013.

These numbers prove that if Monday's game comes down to the need for a big kick, clutch punt or sizeable return, Detroit had better get nervous. The Ravens have proven more steady and consistent in every single special teams category than the Lions have, which could be bad news in a close game.

In other words, Lions' fans had better hope for a blowout.

Max DeMara is the managing editor of Lions 101. You can find him on this site's Twitter @detroitlions101

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Tags: David Akers, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Jacoby Jones, Jeremy Ross, John Harbaugh, NFL, Sam Koch, Sam Martin

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