Tenessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens
Spread: Ravens -9 | Over/Under 47
The Tennessee Titans head into Baltimore as ten-point underdogs against the 14-2 Ravens. The Titans are coming off a 20-13 road upset of the No.3 seeded New England Patriots, a team heralded for their ability to win in the playoffs. The Ravens, who finished the 2019 regular season with the best record in the NFL, have won twelve straight games. The last time they lost was September 29th. Since that loss in Week 4, they have outscored their opponents 396 to 182, a 15.2 point average margin of victory. It would be ill-advised, however, to rule out a Titans team that ranks tenth in points scored, twelfth in total yards, and third in rushing yards this season. Tennessee is not phased while playing away from home, they have won their last four away games including wins against the Texans and Patriots.
Keys to the Game: Tennessee Titans
Despite their momentum, this will be an uphill battle for Tennessee. To win this game they will need to attack the Ravens at their weakest point, their front seven, and win the time of possession battle. The Ravens have run the seventh most plays in the NFL this season (1064), and thrive on getting out too early leads and controlling the pace of play. The Titans, in contrast, have run the third-fewest plays (949). Their key to controlling the pace of play and winning this game will be Derrick Henry. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in six of his last seven games, including 211 yards in week 17 against Houston and 182 yards against New England last week. The Titans have run the ball on 49% of their total plays this season.
The Ravens have stood strong against the running game this season, having allowed the fifth least rushing yards to opposing offenses, but are vulnerable at the linebacker position. If Henry can break through the initial line of scrimmage and into the second level of the field he can break off some big runs. When they do go to the air look for them to target AJ Brown, his quickness can allow him to get off press coverage from their shutdown defensive back corps. Sharp slants and power football in the way to beat the Ravens, and the Titans have the tools to get the job done.
Keys to the Game: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens need to be aggressive early, feed the ball to their talented tight end trio, and shutdown the Titans wideouts. The Ravens have dominated games this season when they get out to early leads. The Greg Roman offense, featuring three players with at least 700 rushing yards, thrives on keeping defenses off balance and slicing them with as many small paper cuts as possible before they tear from mental and physical exhaustion.
We know feeding the ball to the tight end position is an important piece of their offensive play calling, but this week it is even more critical. The trio of Andrews, Hurst, and Boyle have combined for 180 of the team’s 439 passing attempts, which is 41%. They have combined to catch 69% of those targets for 1,522 yards (45% of all receiving yards) and 17 of 37 (46%) passing touchdowns.
The Patriots forced Tennessee to run the ball by shutting down AJ Brown and Corey Davis, their two only true receiving threats. The Ravens can also shutdown those wideouts with their loaded secondary of Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, and Jimmy Smith. Tennessee still won, though, despite Ryan Tannehill throwing for just 72 yards. The difference in this match-up is that the aforementioned offensive gameplan from the Ravens will allow a limited amount of time for the Titans to touch the ball-the more time they devote to the rushing attack through Henry the less likely they will be able to keep up with the highest-scoring offense in the NFL.
Fantasy Take: Start’Em Sit’Em
Start: Derrick Henry
I have likely hammered home the point by now but Henry is a must-start this week if he is available to you. He has 66 carries over the last two weeks that have totaled 393 yards and 4 touchdowns. Regardless of the game script, the Titans will be forced to rely on him to keep them in the game. The low likelihood of Henry making it into the conference championship round is another reason to roll out the big boy.
Start: Lamar Jackson
In one-and-done fantasy football leagues I am a big proponent of playing your studs while you have them-last week taught us not to trust the chalk when it comes to playoff football. Jackson is match-up proof, he has at least 19 fantasy football points in 14 of 15 games this season and has the highest ceiling in the game; he’s scored more than 30 fantasy points in standard QB scoring formats seven times. From a strategy perspective, keep in mind the Ravens could be playing the Chiefs next week-you don’t want to sit Jackson and Mahomes this week and risk losing out on not being able to play one at some point in the playoffs.
Start: Mark Andrews
I mentioned Andrews’ target share earlier, but I did not discuss how vulnerable the Titans are to the tight end position. They have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season. That includes 916 receiving yards (7th most) and 9 touchdowns (the 4th most). That’s a good combo for the league leader in touchdowns at the tight end position.
Sit: AJ Brown
The Ravens have allowed the 5th least passing yards (207 yards/game) and 2nd fewest passing touchdowns (0.93 touchdowns/game) to oppposing teams this season. Although the Titans will be relying on AJ Brown to win off press coverage, you shouldn’t. He’s likely to see Jimmy Smith to start the game, and the Ravens are not afraid to move their corners around-he could get a healthy dose of Peters to keep him off balance. I wouldn’t even consider touching the Titans passing attack this week.
Baltimore will come out fresh and ready to dominate in front of what is sure to be an energetic crowd at M&T Bank stadium. I expect Lamar Jackson to get his first playoff win behind a Ravens offense controlling the pace of the game and a secondary forcing the Titans to play in between the tackles. I’m taking the Ravens outright and to cover the large ten-point spread. The Ravens keep their foot on the pedal when they have control of the game but they don’t force action, especially if their defense is doing their job-so I am going for the under on the 47 point total.
My Pick: Ravens 27-16
Matt is a seasoned fantasy football analyst that writes dynasty and devy fantasy football content year-round. In addition to writing for Gridiron Experts, he writes and hosts a podcast for The Dynasty Draft Room and publishes all of his work at patreon.com/theffeducator