Baltimore Ravens Week 11 Preview
The Baltimore Ravens will be looking to rebound from a shocking upset loss to the New England Patriots last week by avenging their stunning upset from the 2019 postseason when they welcome the Tennessee Titans town in Week 11 for an AFC showdown at 1 PM eastern time at M&T Bank Stadium on CBS.
This will be a rematch of a Divisional round matchup from last year’s playoffs when the Titans came into Baltimore and used league rushing champion, Derrick Henry, to bludgeon a previously surging Ravens team into submission 28-12.
Both teams are entering this game with identical 6-3 records and but have struggled as late with each dropping two of their last three games and in the case of the Titans, they’ve lost three of their last four after starting the season 5-0.
Here is a detailed breakdown of the matchup including potential X factors, who will likely be out with an injury for each team, and a final outcome prediction.
What’s at stake:
The Ravens aren’t completely out of the running for securing a third straight AFC North division title but they are currently three games behind the still undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers in the standings and lost the first head-to-head matchup between the two teams three weeks ago.
With a win over Tennessee, Baltimore would improve to 7-3 overall and 4-3 in AFC conference play which would keep them alive in the wildcard card race for the time being in case they can’t catch the Steelers.
The Titans are currently on the outside looking in according to the current playoff outlook but if they were able to pull off another upset over the Ravens, they would improve to 7-3 overall and 4-3 in AFC conference play.
Tennessee stands a better chance of catching Indianapolis (7-3) in the race for the AFC South division than the Ravens have at winning the North and will be trying to make the playoffs for the second straight season.
Who might not suit up:
The Ravens will likely be without both of their Pro Bowl interior defensive linemen when they take the field to face the Titans since nose tackle Brandon Williams and defensive end Calais Campbell are listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game.
Campbell went down with calf strain on the first drive of the Indianapolis game two weeks ago and Williams suffered an ankle injury on the first drive of the Patriots game last week. Both players are two of the premier run defenders not just on the Ravens roster but in the entire league.
Neither player practiced this week which doesn’t bode well for their potential availability for the game.
While this is certainly concerning with a bruising power back like Henry coming to town, the Ravens have the utmost faith in the ability of veterans Derek Wolfe, Justin Ellis, and Jihad Ward as well as rookies Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington to step up and perform well.
Some good news on the injury front for the Ravens is the likely return of two key veteran defenders to the lineup this week. Defensive back Jimmy Smith and inside linebacker LJ Fort are listed as questionable to play Sunday after missing last week’s game against New England.
Both players returned to practice this week with Smith missing Wednesday but returning as a limited participant on Thursday and Friday and Fort was a full participant in practice all week. Smith missed last week with an ankle injury and Fort missed the last two games with a finger injury.
The return of both players would be huge for a Ravens defense that sorely missed a veteran presence at the second level last week against the Patriots and hasn’t had its top three corners on the field together since Week Eight for injury and COVID related reasons.
As for the Titans, they have already ruled out six players for this week’s game, including a whopping six starters between offense and defense.
Tennessee’s most notable injury-related absence will be three-time Pro Bowl edge defender Jadeveon Clowney who has been battling and trying to play through a nagging knee issue all season.
The other three starters that will not be suiting up for the Titans on Sunday are top cornerback Adoree Jackson, slot receiver Adam Humphries and offensive guard Rodger Saffold.
Jackson has yet to play a single snap this season with a knee injury he suffered in the week of preparation leading up to the opener. Humphries is still trying to recover from a concussion he sustained against the Bengals three weeks ago and Saffold is dealing with an ankle injury.
All four notable injuries are significant blows for Tennessee since Clowney can still be a game wrecker even if he doesn’t have a sack yet this year, Humphries is key to their third-down offense, Jackson is their best corner when healthy, and Saffold will be sorely missed on an offensive line that is already without stalwart left tackle Taylor Lewan who is on injured reserve with a season-ending knee injury.
Potential X factors:
WR Willie Snead IV
The veteran wide receiver has been the Ravens most consistent pass catcher all season with a career-high catch rate of 75.8 through the first nine games but over the last month, he has been the most productive as well with 14 catches for 207 yards and two touchdowns on 18 targets in November alone.
The Titans have the worst third-down defense in the league which plays right into the strength of Snead’s game since he is the target that reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson routinely looks for in crucial conversion situations. Don’t be surprised if Snead ends up leading the team in targets and receptions this week even if he doesn’t record the most receiving yards.
ILB LJ Fort
Last week the front seven of the Ravens’ defense sorely missed the presence of the former journeyman at inside linebacker in addition to Williams and Campbell in the trenches. There were several instances against the Patriots when the Ravens’ two rookie inside linebackers (Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison) were out of position, overshot their gap responsibility, and even got caught peeking into the backfield on a trick play that resulted in a touchdown.
With Fort expected to be back in the fold, he will bring with him a steading veteran savvy to the position that won’t get fooled or caught off guard by eye candy which should come in handy this week against a Titans team that loves to utilize misdirection in an attempt to get the defense and especially second and third-level defenders moving and flowing one way only to have the play whether it’s a run or a pass, actually be heading in the opposite direction.
Recent history of the matchup:
Including the playoffs, these two teams have faced off 24 times since the Ravens’ inaugural season in 1996 back when the Titans and were based in Houston and were still named the Oilers.
No one holds the upper hand with the all-time series being tied at 12-12 and they have gone back in forth in their last eight meetings. Neither team has won consecutive games against the other since the Titans beat the Ravens in back to back years from 2004-2005 and Baltimore claimed five straight wins before that from 2000-2002.
As banged up as the Ravens have gotten over the last month, I believe that the Titans’ injuries at key positions in their starting lineup will give Baltimore the edge in this game.
The two biggest keys to victory for the home team in this game will come down to how well the defense can limit Henry and how well the offense can take advantage of a shorthanded Tennessee defense that has struggled to get off the field all season and especially on third down where they have been historically bad.
Final outcome: Ravens beat Titans 31-17