Recently, NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison predicted that Joe Flacco would lead the AFC in passing yards.
The Ravens are only two seasons removed from having a top-10 rush offense, and it feels like 20. Knowing the history of this team, this seems like quite the odd prediction. Even weirder though, is the fact that it actually has merit.
Harrison’s prediction is more thought out then the average hot takes to which we’ve grown accustomed. Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger both would profile as stronger candidates, but both have had trouble staying healthy. For Ben specifically, Martavis Bryant was on pace for 5,200 yards in 2015. Betting on either to play a full season is where it gets dicey.
The Colts have kept things status quo in their running game and while improved on defense, I still think they are probably another talent infusion away from making real headway on that side of the ball. Luck will still need to do a lot of damage through the air.
Harrison’s argument against Brady makes sense, but when I think about the pace at which the Patriots play, the fact that they’ve added Brandin Cooks and now three running backs adept in the pass gam,e it feels like a 2007-level explosion is forthcoming.
Andy Dalton is a real dark horse in this conversation for me. The weapons at his disposal are in the upper echelon of the league. Cincinnati has had a complete youth movement on the offensive line that leads me to think they will emphasize the short passing game ahead of the running game in 2017, with Joe Mixon’s and Gio Bernard’s receiving talents on display.
The aspect absent from Harrison’s prediction that I think will ultimately prove it to be false is the addition of Greg Roman to the Ravens coaching staff. Don’t let the slick “Run Game Coordinator” title fool you; he’s been brought in not only to fix the running game, but to make sure the team doesn’t abandon it regularly again. In his last six years at the helm in San Francisco and Buffalo, they’ve finished 9th or better in rushing yards and attempts. In each of the last two seasons the Bills finished first in both.
I’ll make my own, not so bold prediction that the presence of Roman shaves at least 100 attempts off of Joe Flacco’s whopping 672 total from last season.
So unless his yards per attempt goes from the basement to the ceiling in the matter of a year, it’ll be safe to assume Flacco won’t be leading the AFC in passing yards.