Four key matchups to watch for in Ravens v Titans
The Baltimore Ravens are back at home this week after splitting their two-game road stint and will face off with the Tennessee Titans. They’ll be looking to avenge their shocking early exit from last year’s playoffs with a bounce-back win in Week 11.
This battle between two of the top contenders in the running for one of the AFC’s three wildcard playoff spots could come down to one or several pivotal matchups between individual players or whole units on the opposing side of the ball.
Here are four key matchups that could determine the outcome of this game:
CB Marlon Humphrey v WR AJ Brown
When the Ravens top cornerback and the Titans No.1 wide receiver faceoff on Sunday it will be must-see television. Since Humphrey plays both on the outside and in the slot, we’ll be treated to this heavyweight bout early and often.
Both players are two of the most physical and technically sound at their respective positions and are having great seasons. Humphrey is one of the leading candidates to win Defensive Player of the Year and Brown is following up a great rookie year with an even better sophomore season that will likely end up with him earning his first Pro Bowl bid.
This will be the top individual matchup to watch for in this game between a First-Team All-Pro corner and rising star who already establishing himself as one of the premier offensive playmakers in the league.
Ravens front seven v RB Derrick Henry
The last time these two faced off, Tennessee’s bruising running back bulldozed his way through all three levels of Baltimore’s defense for nearly 200 rushing yards at home to complete the most shocking upset in recent postseason history.
If the Ravens want to stop history from repeating itself, avenge their early exit from the 2019 playoffs, and avoid another upset at home then they’ll make slowing down Henry their top priority.
It’s easier said than done and will be more difficult since the Ravens will likely be without their top two interior defensive linemen in veterans Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell.
However, the Titans offensive line is equally as banged up and will be playing an inspired Baltimore front seven that is determined to bounce back from a poor performance against the Patriot last week.
Ravens pass rush v QB Ryan Tannehill
In that same aforementioned playoff game, the reigning AP Comeback Player of the Year only completed seven of his 14 passes but he made them count and made the Ravens play on play-action for two touchdowns through the air and added another on the ground with his legs.
While the Titans as a team has struggled to string together wins as of late, Tannehill has picked up where he left off from a passing efficiency standpoint. He has thrown 20 touchdowns to just three interceptions and is completing nearly 65 percent of his passes.
Unfortunately for Tannehill, he’ll be relying on the same banged up offensive line that is tasked with opening up holes for Henry to run through to give enough time to throw in pass protection.
The Ravens’ pass rush has only managed three sacks in three weeks against a pair of veteran quarterbacks that get rid of the ball quicker than most and another that was able to routinely hit wide-open receivers because his team was running the ball so dominantly.
This could be a resurgent week for Baltimore’s edge rushers especially since the Titans have to former backups starting at both offensive tackle spots and they’ll be missing their top guard as well so there might be some opportunities to get some free runs at Tannehill on twists and stunts.
I foresee a strong outing from Pro Bowl edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue this week who hasn’t registered a sack in a Ravens uniform since being traded to the team last month but has been gelling more and more with his new teammates.
He and the pass rush as a whole have been generating consistent pressure in limited opportunities in their last three games but this week, I believe that they will finally get the sack number to reflect it in the final box score.
QB Lamar Jackson v Titans secondary
The reigning league MVP and the Ravens offense as a whole have struggled to find consistency in the passing game since the season opener but despite their recent rash of injuries, they could be in for a far more efficient day through the air. Tennessee’s defense has been historically bad at getting off the field all season and is especially horrid on third down.
This could mean that Jackson and his pass-catchers will have a chance to carve up the Titans secondary and get into a rhythm early since they will be without top cornerback in Adoree Jackson and primarily run zone coverage because they don’t believe they have the quality corners to play anything else.
The Titans’ defense is tied for the second-fewest sacks in the league with just seven through nine games and will be without three-time Pro Bowl edge defender Jadeveon Clowney who was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury on Saturday.
A poor pass rush and shorthanded secondary could spell doom for Tennessee’s defense and provide Jackson and the Ravens’ offense with a prime opportunity to shake the funk that they’ve been in for most of the season.