After a mini bye week, the struggling Tennessee Titans are set to hit the road to take on the Baltimore Ravens.
For a team still trying to drag itself out of the mud, this sort of game isn’t one you’d prefer in terms of easily getting yourself back on track. The Ravens, while not as dangerous as last season, still remain as one of the best teams in the AFC.
Not only that, they’re fighting to stay alive in this deep AFC playoff race, so you can expect a hard fought, physical football game from their side.
What about Tennessee?
Well, it remains to be seen if they’re truly ready to abandon the skid they’re currently on.
Let’s preview it all.
Major Storylines Heading Into The Game
Titans Suddenly Find Their Selves Outside of The Playoff Picture
Once upon a time, the Tennessee Titans were 5-0, and were sitting atop the AFC South. Now, the Titans are 6-3, sitting outside the AFC playoff picture, and have yet to finish the most grueling part of their 2020 schedule.
With the defense struggling, and the offense not looking as dangerous as it was before, this is a very concerning time for Mike Vrabel’s team.
AFC Playoff Picture through week 10:
1) Steelers (9-0)
2) Chiefs (8-1)
3) Bills (7-3)
4) Colts (6-3)
5) Raiders (6-3)
6) Dolphins (6-3)
7) Ravens (6-3)
In the hunt: Browns (6-3), Titans (6-3), Patriots (4-5)
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) November 17, 2020
They’ll have to reel off at least another 4 wins to at least put their selves in the conversation for a playoff spot, but the road to those 4 wins isn’t easy whatsoever.
First up, you have the Baltimore Ravens tomorrow, who’re still one of the best teams in this loaded AFC conference despite their offense not displaying the same sort of dominance we were so used to seeing in 2019. Up next after Baltimore, the annual road matchup against the Indianapolis Colts, a game that hasn’t been too kind to the Titans in recent years.
After that, this team will still have matchups against the Cleveland Browns and the Green Bay Packers, both firmly in the mix for playoff spots in their respective conferences.
The difficulty of the Titans’ opponents on the schedule isn’t even the half of it. Out of the final 7 games on the Titans’ 2020 schedule, 5 of them are on the road.
I told you this wasn’t going to be easy.
Nothing is set in stone just yet though, so it’s best to ride this out, and see whether this team can complete to the daunting task they have ahead of them.
Baltimore Isn’t Looking As Explosive On Offense
Lamar Jackson and the dynamic Ravens running game took the league by storm last season. From exotic play designs in the run game, to heavy play action giving opposing defenses nightmares, everything was just simply clicking for the Ravens offensively last season.
However, the Ravens haven’t found that same sort of success this year.
In fact, you could even say they’re struggling a little bit offensively, which is weird to say considering most of their core from last season is still intact.
With all that being said, we can’t get discuss this topic without asking the obvious question at hand.
What’s going on offensively in Baltimore?
Well, teams have adapted pretty well to the offense Baltimore wants to run. They’re keeping a tighter lid on explosive plays, and defenses have forced this offense to drop back and pass the football a lot more than they’d like.
Lamar Jackson tells the @RichEisenShow that defenses sometimes “are calling out our plays, stuff like that. They know what we’re doing.”
The optics on this: not great. pic.twitter.com/5Z16ysa4Ls
— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) November 11, 2020
Pedestrian talent at wide receiver, along with stale route combinations and play calls, have somewhat stagnated this offense so far. They’re struggling to consistently hit those chunk plays in the run game to make drives a little more easier, therefore putting more of a strain on Lamar Jackson to win with his arm instead of running around and making plays with his legs.
Jackson is still a great quarterback and a good player in general, no doubt. But he doesn’t seem to fare as well when he’s forced to push the football down the field.
To be fair though, Marquise Brown and Devin Duvernay are the only guys on that offense capable of taking the top off the defense. But those 2 have been basically impossible in terms of big plays on offense this season, which is surprising to say the least.
Who knows, maybe Baltimore will find that groove again in their passing game, and start to terrorize defenses once again.
If they do end up doing so, watch out.
Matchups to Watch
1. Jayon Brown vs. Lamar Jackson
I wrote down this matchup with one specific idea in mind. Brown hasn’t been the best in pass coverage this year, but he’s been especially poor when he’s been asked to square himself up, and explode to make plays on ball carriers in space.
That doesn’t bode well when the quarterback you’ll be tasked with stopping, is by far one of the best players at making others miss in the open field.
Sound tackling will be key for this defense, but it’ll especially be key for Brown once Lamar makes his way into that second level in space.
2. Left Side of The Titans’ Offensive Line vs. Baltimore’s Defensive Line
With Taylor Lewan gone for the year, and Roger Saffold out for tomorrow’s game, the left side of this Titans offensive line looks rather…..bleh.
Ty Sambrailo has been getting the start at left tackle since Lewan went down, and while he’s had some good plays, he’s had some bad ones as well. Now with Saffold out of the lineup, the Titans will turn to Jamil Douglas at left guard, who hasn’t played a healthy amount of good football ever since he’s became a Titan.
However, with Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams both being out with injuries, it seems this offensive line has been spared of a complete butt whooping.
But if Williams and Campbell were both healthy and ready to go, this might’ve been the biggest side specific OL vs. DL mismatch I’ve seen in quite a while.
I’m 100% serious here too.
Tennessee Titans: The Entire Titans Offensive Line
It doesn’t get any simpler than this.
This offensive line will potentially be missing a total of 3 regular starters, leaving this unit in chaos before this big game in Baltimore. But let’s say a miracle happens, and this injury riddled offensive line puts together a solid game.
Ryan Tannehill will find more time to throw, Derrick Henry will have more success in the run game, and more points will be put up on the scoreboard.
It all sounds so easy, and on paper it is.
But execution will always be the name of the game in terms of whether a unit can have a good day.
Once again, it all sounds so simple, but in reality it’s insanely difficult.
Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen
Patrick Queen is the linebacker we’ll be spotlighting today, as he’ll be put to the test once again during his fantastic rookie season.
With Derrick Henry coming to town, attention will always shift towards whether the opposing team’s linebackers can put a hat on him and limit the damage he can do on the field.
Queen has the wheels to keep up, but the question is, is he physical enough to present a challenge for Henry in the run game? I think he is, and I’m pretty sure he knows that as well.
This should be a fascinating clash to watch go down.
The Ravens are still the better football team right about now, even with the struggles on the offensive side of the ball. The Titans’ defense is bad, and there’s no telling when this unit will turn into one teams will have to start respecting.
This’ll be a close game I feel like, but I have the Ravens pulling away late to win.