Ravens pose big challenge for Gabbert

Two teams seemingly heading in opposite directions are set to face off on Monday Night Football (ESPN, 8:30 ET).

At 4-1, the Baltimore Ravens look to equal the best six-game start in franchise history. In 2000, they opened 5-1, on the way to a 12-4 finish and Super Bowl XXXV title.

Meanwhile, at 1-5, the Jacksonville Jaguars have matched their worst six-game start in team history (started 1-5 in 2003).

After defeating the Titans in Week 1, the Jaguars have lost five straight, their longest losing streak since losing 6 straight games from 2002-03. Jacksonville is facing its fourth straight opponent currently 4-2 or better.

The Ravens have dominated the series of late, having won seven of the past eight meetings. However, six of those wins came by seven points or fewer. History is also working against the Jaguars, who have lost their past six games in primetime.

While defenses now have Ray Rice and company to worry about, the Ravens’ defense remains its core strength. Baltimore is allowing an NFL-low 14.2 points per game, which would be the fewest since the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers (13.9).

Fewest 4th-Quarter Points Allowed
This Season

It’s vital to strike early against the Ravens, who have allowed only six points in the fourth quarter this season. That’s reminiscent of the 2000 squad, which allowed only 42 fourth-quarter points all season.

Maurice Jones-Drew is averaging a career-high 4.8 yards-per-carry, but he faces one of the NFL’s top rush defenses. Baltimore is allowing just 76.6 rushing yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry, both third best in the NFL.

That puts added pressure on rookie Blaine Gabbert, making his fifth career start. Out of 34 qualifying quarterbacks, he currently has the second-lowest Total QBR (18.8) ahead of only Kerry Collins (13.6).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, over the past 10 times a rookie quarterback has started against the team allowing the fewest points per game, his team has won just once. That came in the 2007 regular-season finale, when Matt Moore led Carolina over Tampa Bay, which was resting its starters.

Blaine Gabbert by Throw Location
2011 Season

Gabbert’s biggest strength has been throws inside the numbers, where he’s completed all four of his touchdowns and is averaging 7.8 yards per attempt. Compare that to outside the numbers, where he averages 3.9 per attempt and two interceptions.

Of course, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed might have something to say about that. The Ravens are allowing the lowest completion percentage inside the numbers this season (55.7 pct)

There is reason for hope in Jacksonville. According to Elias, the Ravens have won just two of the last six games in which they faced a rookie starting quarterback, including losses to Charlie Frye and Trent Edwards