One of the crucial fascinating video games of Tremendous Wild-Card Weekend is a rematch of a playoff sport we noticed simply final yr. The AFC South champion Tennessee Titans get to host the Baltimore Ravens this time round, giving them an added benefit in comparison with final yr, when the went on the street and steamrolled the No. 1 total seed.
Can the Titans do it once more, or will the Ravens get their revenge? Let’s break down the matchup.
The best way to Watch
Time: 1:05 p.m. ET
Location: Nissan Stadium (Nashville, Tennessee)
TV: ESPN | Stream: fuboTV (Attempt at no cost)
When the Ravens have the ball
For a lot of the common season, the Ravens struggled offensively. Previous to their Week 11 loss to the staff the Titans staff they may play once more on Sunday, here is what we wrote concerning the backward step they’d taken:
A have a look at the sport movie and a deeper dive into the numbers reveals a trio of culprits behind the staff’s offensive malaise: an offensive line that has taken a step backward; struggles connecting on the kind of deep passes that offered a major chunk of their huge performs a yr in the past; and struggles in opposition to zone defenses…
The small step backward in run-blocking has led to extra damaging runs, fewer explosive runs, and fewer yards earlier than contact per try. All of these issues have meant worse down-and-distance conditions for the NFL’s run-heaviest staff, which has led to decrease third- and fourth-down conversion charges, which in flip have led to a dip in total yardage and scoring.
A slight step backward in go blocking has led to Jackson taking sacks extra typically than he did a yr in the past, but additionally being pressured significantly extra typically as nicely. Final season, Jackson was pressured on solely 31.2 p.c of his dropbacks, per Professional Soccer Focus and Tru Media. This yr, that determine has spiked to 37.7 p.c. In flip, his scramble charge (how typically he has scrambled as a share of pressures) has dipped from 28.5 p.c to 24.1 p.c, and his yards per scramble common has plummeted from 10.5 to six.4 yards…
Final yr, Jackson was the most effective deep-ball passers within the NFL. He accomplished 19 of 55 throws of no less than 20 yards, per PFF and Tru Media, for 659 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. This yr, he is simply 8 of 29 for 252 yards, one rating and one decide. He has missed Marquise Brown down the sphere so many occasions that I needed to cease counting.
The Ravens misplaced that sport in opposition to the Titans, in addition to the next week’s sport in opposition to the Pittsburgh Steelers, which Jackson sat out after contracting the coronavirus. Since his return from the virus-induced absence, although, the offense has taken off.
Jackson has taken off each by means of the air (spiking his passer ranking from 95.4 to 115.8) and on the bottom (going from a mean of 57.5 dashing yards per sport to 86 per sport). His reference to Marquise Brown has gotten again on-line, as the 2 have attached for 22 receptions for 253 yards and 5 scores over the previous 5 weeks. And the return of Jackson’s dynamism as a runner has allowed for the flourishing of rookie JK Dobbins and third-year man Gus Edwards, who’ve completely overtaken the veteran Mark Ingram within the backfield. Over the ultimate 5 video games of the season, Dobbins has rushed 62 occasions for 425 yards (6.9 yards per carry) and 6 touchdowns, whereas Edwards has carried 50 occasions for 337 yards (6.7 per carry) and two scores.
The final time these two groups performed, the Ravens staked themselves to a 21-10 lead, solely to falter on each offense and protection down the stretch. That is not one thing the staff has struggled with since that time. It is also not essentially one thing we should always count on that the Titans will be capable of drive them into once more, given the standard of their protection. Tennessee completed the season ranked twenty eighth in yards allowed, twenty fourth in factors allowed, and twenty ninth in Soccer Outsiders’ DVOA, with the Thirtieth-ranked unit in opposition to the go. It is notable, although, that the Titans truly had a league-average unit (sixteenth) in opposition to the run, indicating that they is perhaps higher set as much as play in opposition to the Ravens than they’re in opposition to different groups.
Nonetheless, Tennessee’s virtually complete incapability to get strain on opposing quarterbacks ought to go away Jackson feeling unhurried within the pocket, whereas additionally giving him ample room to scramble down the sphere if he so chooses. The Titans struggled all through the season to cope with opposing tight ends, which presents a further problem when the opposing staff’s finest pass-catching choice is Mark Andrews. The standing of cornerback Adoree’ Jackson can also be doubtful for this contest, leaving Tennessee with no defensive again who can match Hollywood’s velocity.
Barring the Tennessee defensive entrance surprisingly dominating the matchup in opposition to Baltimore’s offensive line, this sport units up nicely for the Ravens offense to proceed rolling.
When the Titans have the ball
This facet of the ball presents probably the most attention-grabbing tactical battles of the weekend. On one facet you’ve got acquired the Titans, who completed this season second in yards, fourth in scoring, and fourth in DVOA, whereas additionally rating as one in all solely two groups with a top-five dashing and passing assault. On the opposite you may have the Ravens, who checked in seventh in yards allowed, second in factors allowed, and completed ninth in defensive DVOA regardless of quite a few harm and COVID-related absences on that facet of the ball all year long.
The 2 groups are additionally well-matched personnel-wise, because the Titans love to make use of heavy formations to get the protection in heavy personnel and create one-on-one matchups for his or her athletic huge receivers, whereas the Ravens have one of many NFL‘s finest defensive strains and one in all its finest secondaries.
There are all types of intriguing battles up entrance, the place the inside of the Tennessee offensive line must cope with Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, and Derek Wolfe, whereas the tackles do battle with Matt Judon, Pernell McPhee, and Yannick Ngakoue. On the perimeter, A.J. Brown and Corey Davis will probably be tasked with getting open in opposition to the likes of Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, and Jimmy Smith. Even the battle between Titans tight ends Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser, and the Ravens’ linebackers and safeties carries intrigue.
As you are possible nicely conscious, Derrick Henry in on one more rampage, simply as he was round this time final yr. He is coming off an absurd 34-carry, 250-yard, two-touchdown trampling of the Houston Texans, which was the capper to his 196-carry, 1,184-yard, nine-touchdown second half of the season. Simply when it appeared like he could not get extra not possible to deal with than he was final yr, nicely, he did this. Henry broke a league-high 75 tackles on working performs this season, per Professional Soccer Focus and Tru Media, and averaged 3.94 yards after contact per try. The Titans do a fabulous job designing cutbacks and wind-backs into their working performs so opponents should attempt to carry Henry down from the facet as a substitute of straight on, a job at which they sometimes fail with laughable outcomes.
The Ravens’ run protection ranked simply twelfth in DVOA this season, a bit worse than you may normally count on from this group. But it surely was much better with Campbell and Williams on the sphere, and so they’ll be on the market on Sunday. It will be as much as them and Wolfe to verify Henry would not get an opportunity to interrupt into the second degree, the place even Baltimore’s wonderful secondary would not actually stand an opportunity of preserving maintain of the Large Canine.
Dedicate an excessive amount of consideration to Henry, although, and Tannehill will carve you up. He completed the season ranked third in EPA per play on play-action throws, per PFF and Tru Media, spurred on by a league-high 44 completions gaining no less than 14 yards on these performs. Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith routinely places Tannehill in place to succeed with a heavy use of run fakes, bootlegs, crossing patterns, and focused deep pictures, and simply while you assume you’ve got acquired them found out, they’re going to swerve in one other path. It is a remarkably powerful offense to come up with, because the Ravens discovered final yr.
In the long run, this looks like a type of video games that comes right down to which offense has the ball final.
Prediction: Ravens 33, Titans 31