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Friday, October 25, 2013
Ravens midseason stock watch

By Jamison Hensley

A look at whose stock is falling and rising as the Baltimore Ravens are at their bye:

FALLING

1. First-quarter production. The Ravens have scored a grand total of 13 points in the first quarter this season. That's an average of 1.9 points in the first quarter, which is the worst in the NFL. The only touchdown scored by the Ravens in the first quarter was Vonta Leach's two-yard catch in the season opener. Over the next six games, the Ravens have been shut out in the first quarter four times. The Ravens are only averaging 4.03 yards per play in the opening quarter, which is only better than teams, the winless Buccaneers and Jaguars.

2. Run offense and run defense. The Ravens haven't been able to run the ball all season and they haven't been able to stop the run lately. Over the past two games, the Ravens have gained 129 yards rushing and have allowed 281 yards on the ground -- a difference of 152 yards. Baltimore is averaging 2.8 yards per carry, which ranks last in the NFL. This a big reason why the Ravens have lost the time of possession battle in four of their last five games.

3. John Harbaugh's aggressive decisions. Whether you agree or disagree with his decisions, we can all agree that nothing has gone Harbaugh's way this season. The choice to go for the touchdown on fourth down against Green Bay and the onside kick at Pittsburgh would've been lauded as gutsy calls if they had gone the Ravens' way. But the Ravens' lack of execution let down Harbaugh and caused him to be second-guessed.

RISING

1. Anyone named Smith. The best player on offense has been Torrey Smith, and the MVP on defense has been Daryl Smith. Torrey Smith ranks seventh in the NFL with an 89.9 yards receiving per game, even though he hasn't been much of a factor the past two games. He still accounts for nearly one-third of Joe Flacco's passing yards. Daryl Smith, who has replaced Ray Lewis at inside linebacker, has been the top playmaker on defense. He is one of three players this season with more than 60 tackles and at least one sack, interception and forced fumble.

2. Clutch play on defense. The Ravens have given up their share of yards this season (14th in the NFL). Where the defense has shined is in the most critical areas, on third down and in the red zone. The Ravens are a top-five defense in those areas. Why are the Ravens so good in the red zone? Defensive coordinator Dean Pees said it's because his players show no fear when backed up to their end zone. It's a major reason why the Ravens have allowed 99 points in their past six games (16.5-point average) after giving up a franchise-worst 49 points in the season opener.

3. Justin Tucker. There was some concern when Tucker missed two field goals in Week 2 when he was on the same field as Billy Cundiff. But Tucker has quietly put together another impressive season. He has converted 13 straight field goals, and it's not like they've been chip shots. In his past five games, Tucker has hit six from at least 42 yards, including the winning 44-yarder in Miami. In total, he has made eight kicks from 40 yards or longer. Only six kickers have connected on more long-range field goals. His 26 touchbacks are tied for fifth in the league.