AFC Divisional Playoff Preview: Tennessee Titans @ Baltimore Ravens
By Ha Kung Wong
AFC Divisional Playoff: Tennessee Titans @ Baltimore Ravens
Time: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS)
Current: Ravens -9, Over/Under 47
Keys to the Game
- The good news for the Tennessee Titans is that they went into Gillette Stadium and beat the New England Patriots as 5 point underdogs. The bad news is that their reward is that they get to Baltimore to play the top ranked Ravens in the Divisional Round.
- The Wild Card game would have more accurately been described as Derrick Henry and the Titans Defense vs. the Patriots, as Henry was responsible 204 of the Titans 272 yards. None of this is surprising, as Henry finished as the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,540 rushing yards (1,095 of which were after contact) and 16 touchdowns, posting six 100+ yard games. The Patriots were 6th best in the league stopping the run and still couldn’t slow him down.
- More surprising was Ryan Tannehill‘s lack of production as he was just 8 of 15 for 72 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. That’s pretty limited for a QB that ended the regular season ahead of both Drew Brees and Lamar Jackson in Passer Rating (117.5), and also had the 3rd highest completion percentage (70.3%) in the league. That’s the highest Passer Rating and completion percentage he’s had throughout his 7 year career. In addition, he had rookie WR sensation, AJ Brown. Brown has been one of the NFL’s most impressive playmakers, regardless of experience, averaging 20.2 yards on 52 catches, plus another 60 yards on three rushes, having five 100+ yard games and scoring 9 total touchdowns, leading to him being graded the ninth best NFL receiver of 2019 by Pro Football Focus. But in the Wild Card, Brown caught his one and only target for just 4 yards. Clearly, this sub-par production from Tannehill and Brown aren’t going to work against the Ravens.
- The Ravens have the 4th best defense in the league, but are only ranked 19th against the run, even while allowing only the 5th most rush yards per game this season. Henry should be able to take advantage of this, but he’s not going to be do alone again as the one major difference between the Patriots and the Ravens is the offense.
- The Ravens have the number one pass and run offense in the league, and it’s 90% due to Lamar Jackson. Jackson has the most passing TDs (36), the 6th most rush yards (1,206), 14th most rushing TDs (7), and the highest QBR (81.9) in the league. And when I say he had the 6th most rush yards, I mean of any player in the NFL, more than Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones and the Ravens’ own Mark Ingram. To quote a certain person we all know, Jackson is one “bad hombre” and as far as we’ve seen, there’s no slowing him down. He doesn’t throw for many yards, but his percentage of TDs thrown when attempting pass was a whopping 9%, the highest percentage for any QB this season, and the highest percentage of any QB over the last 15 years. And even when plays break down, Jackson is the master of the scramble (i.e. rushes on designed pass plays), doing so 39 times this season averaging a whopping 11 yards per scramble. Good, bad or ugly, Jackson finds a way, and should continue to do so against the 16th ranked Tennessee defense.
Lamar Jackson has thrown 23 TDs against the blitz in 2019.
No other QB has thrown more than 13. pic.twitter.com/xmJuTimIh1
— PFF (@PFF) December 27, 2019
- Jackson isn’t doing it completely alone, though, as Mark Ingram has been a terrific off-season pick up. Ingram had the 14th most rushing yards and 7th most rushing TDs among RBs this season and 5 receiving TDs, leading to his highest total TD output of his 9 year career in the NFL. Of course, Ingram is coming off a calf injury, but is currently on track to play. Gus Edwards isn’t a huge downgrade, but not having Ingram at 100% could impact the Ravens.
- Keep an eye on Special Teams with Baltimore having the edge there. Baltimore has a 96.6% field goal percentage on the back of First Team All Pro kicker, Justin Tucker, which is good for second best in the league. On the flip side, the Titans have the worst field goal percentage in the league at an abysmal 44.4%. Suffice to say that efficiency in the red zone will be critical for Tennessee.
Justin Tucker is still the best kicker in football. pic.twitter.com/XtqINKvKCZ
— PFF (@PFF) December 25, 2019
- In sum, Tennessee needs to contain Jackson and Baltimore needs to contain Henry. On balance, that’s a tall order for Tennessee’s 16th ranked defense as compared to Baltimore’s 4th ranked defense. Then again, the Patriots have the 1st ranked defense in the league and they’re all golfing this week.