New York Jets fans should be excited to watch Joe Flacco against the Baltimore Ravens
The New York Jets received good news on the status of Zach Wilson following his knee surgery on Tuesday. Doctors did not discover any additional damage when scoping his knee, which means his initial recovery timetable of 2-to-4 weeks remains the expectation.
However, Wilson’s availability for the Jets’ season opener against the Baltimore Ravens remains up in the air. There is a good chance that the Jets will play it safe with Wilson and turn to Joe Flacco for Week 1 – giving him a chance to exact vengeance on his former team.
Jets fans should not fear the proposition of Flacco starting in Week 1. In fact, they should be excited. There are a few reasons that Flacco would give the Jets a realistic chance to win this game.
Here are some of the areas where Flacco matches up well against Baltimore.
Beating the blitz
The Ravens have long been known as an aggressive, blitz-heavy defense, and that did not change last year. According to Pro Football Reference, the Ravens defense employed the sixth-highest blitz rate in the NFL at 31.1%.
Flacco was excellent at beating the blitz in 2021. When facing at least five pass rushers, Flacco completed 14 of 21 passes for 206 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions, earning a passer rating of 138.1. Only Matthew Stafford (139.6) had a better rating against 5+ rushers among quarterbacks with at least 20 pass attempts in that scenario.
Baltimore gave up a lot of big plays when blitzing. They ranked sixth-worst with 7.9 yards allowed per pass attempt when sending 5+ rushers. In addition, they gave up 12 touchdown passes while only collecting 3 interceptions.
Success on quick passes
Going hand-in-hand with Flacco’s ability to beat the blitz is his proficiency on quick throws.
In 2021, releasing the ball under 2.5 seconds after the snap, Flacco completed 17 of 24 passes for 211 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. That’s a passer rating of 137.3.
Stopping quick throws was another weakness for Baltimore. The Ravens ranked second-worst with 6.9 yards allowed per attempt when the opponent released the ball in under 2.5 seconds. They gave up 16 touchdowns and 2 interceptions on these throws.
Ability to exploit man coverage with the deep ball
Flacco still has a pretty deep ball. Remember how good he was at launching bombs in 2020?
People forget how good Joe Flacco's deep ball was in 2020 pic.twitter.com/RoD3O2gS1m
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) August 14, 2022
Since 2020, Flacco has completed 10 of 30 deep passes (20+ yards downfield) for 319 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. That’s 10.6 yards per attempt and a 93.6 passer rating – efficient numbers.
Yes, the 33.3% completion percentage is ugly at first glance, but consider this: per NFL Next Gen Stats, Flacco’s “expected” completion percentage on those 30 deep attempts was only 30.3%, which means the throws that he was attempting tended to be extremely difficult (based on the tightness of the coverage, the depth of the throw, the angle, etc.). So, he has been more accurate than expected on his deep throws as a Jet.
Considering that Flacco threw most of his deep passes to guys who are currently backups or on the roster bubble (such as Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims), it’s no wonder the completion probability of his deep passes has been so low. Those guys could not separate. Now having Elijah Moore and Garrett Wilson at his disposal, Flacco should get the chance to throw deep passes with much better probabilities of being completed.
Flacco’s solid deep passing will be a great weapon to have against Baltimore.
The Ravens love to run man coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, Baltimore’s defensive players combined to play man-to-man on 34.5% of their snaps in coverage last season, ranking third-highest in the NFL behind New England and Denver.
Running man coverage is a high-risk, high-reward proposition. It gives your defenders more opportunities to make plays on the football, but it also leaves them more vulnerable to getting beat over the top for big plays down the field.
Flacco’s proficiency as a deep passer can help the Jets punish Baltimore’s man coverage. In 2021, the Ravens allowed 27 completions on passes that traveled at least 20 yards downfield – fourth-most in the league.
Good ball security
The Ravens rely heavily on taking the football away to win games on the road.
Since 2019, Baltimore is 15-3 on the road when forcing at least one turnover. But when failing to record a takeaway on the road, the Ravens are 1-5. The lone win was a 2-point victory over the lowly Lions in 2021, and they wouldn’t have pulled it off if not for a 67-yard Justin Tucker field goal that took a friendly bounce off the crossbar.
So, if you can keep the football safe in a home game against the Ravens, you will have a very good shot of winning.
Flacco has been taking great care of the football in New York. He’s only thrown 3 interceptions over 176 pass attempts as a Jet. His interception rate of 1.70% since 2020 ranks 12th-best out of 61 qualified quarterbacks (min. 100 passes). Flacco also has only 2 fumbles with the Jets (losing one of those).
Joe Flacco can hold the fort down in Week 1
Last year, Flacco did well in all of the areas where you expect a veteran to succeed: executing quick throws with good timing and accuracy, recognizing the blitz and knowing how to react, and taking care of the football. It also just so happens that the Ravens are susceptible to quarterbacks who can get the job done in these areas. To top it all off, Flacco has the deep touch to burn the Ravens’ aggressive secondary.
Make no mistake: This is a very talented Ravens defense. It’s far from a guarantee that Flacco succeeds against them. If his accuracy is not on-point that afternoon, Baltimore will capitalize on his mistakes and bury the Jets quickly. No defense punishes opposing quarterbacks for playing poorly quite like the Ravens do.
And, look, we’re talking about Joe Flacco here. The guy has weaknesses. He’s lost all five of his starts with the Jets, for crying out loud. Throughout his career, Flacco has been a fairly average quarterback who is capable of both great performances and woeful ones. You don’t know who you’re going to get.
The point here is not that Flacco has a good chance of thriving against Baltimore. That would be disrespectful to Baltimore’s talent and an oversell of who Flacco is at this point. Rather, the point is merely that Flacco’s strengths are perfectly aligned with this particular defense’s weaknesses. So, if he is on his game, there is a realistic chance that he could position the Jets to steal an upset victory.