The Ravens rollercoaster season will continue with a trip to Tennessee, their third straight road game. Oddsmakers have installed Baltimore as field goal favorites in what is expected to be a defensive minded game with a 41-point total. This match could have postseason implications down the road, as both teams sit at 3-2 in a crowded AFC.
Most of the trends favor the Titans. They are 13-5 at home since 2016 while the Ravens are 7-11 on the road over the same period. Tennessee is also 4-1 in their last five games against the AFC North and the Ravens are recently 2-8 in October.
After the Titans held off the Ravens 23-20 last season, the all-time series between these franchises is tied 11-to-11. Baltimore attempted 52 passes against Tennessee last November, but may prefer a run centric game plan because the Titans defense is statistically much better against the pass than the run. On the other side of the ball, the Ravens top scoring defense hopes to stifle Tennessee’s pedestrian offensive attack.
In a grinding type of contest that will probably mirror their old AFC Central rivalry games, these three matchups should determine the outcome:
RG Marshal Yanda vs DT Jurrell Casey
Two of the best in the business at their respective positions. With three sacks and a pair of forced fumbles this season, the three-time Pro-Bowler Casey rates as Pro Football Focus’ #5 interior lineman. He will square off against PFF’s #7 guard, Yanda on some plays.
Casey lines up on the nose and at 3-technique. Coordinator Dean Pees will surely match him up against the Ravens below average blockers at center and left guard when feasible. Baltimore may opt to keep an H-back in to help contain the penetrator. Preventing Casey from collapsing the pocket will be paramount.
As with all quarterbacks, Joe Flacco does not play well with pressure in his face.
CB Tavon Young vs WR Taywan Taylor
Young is having a fine season after returning from a torn ACL. He corralled a beautiful diving interception last Week and is still the Ravens best option to man the slot, even after the return of Jimmy Smith. However, he can struggle to cover the better slot receivers, as evidenced by his performance on Tyler Boyd in Week 2.
Enter Taylor, a shifty second-year receiver who has turned 23 targets into 169-yards and a score since Week 2. Because Tennessee’s rushing offense has significantly regressed from last season and top wideout Corey Davis has not shown an ability to make an impact against quality corners, Taywan is likely to be Marcus Mariota’s best option in Week 6.
Baltimore is unlikely to generate consistent pressure against a line that has surrendered just nine sacks, but if Young can neutralize Taylor, the defense should dominate once again.
QB Joe Flacco vs S Kevin Byard
Byard picked off Flacco twice last year in route to an All-Pro season. Yet he has not played as well in 2018 under Pees. Meanwhile, Flacco is coming off arguably his worst game of the season last week in Cleveland.
With cornerbacks Adoree’ Jackson, Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler, Tennessee does field the ideal skillsets to mark Baltimore’s top receivers. Flacco will need to utilize his tight ends, specifically rookie Hayden Hurst in the seam, to push the ball downfield. Notably, the Titans 11 passes allowed of 20-plus yards is second fewest in the NFL.
In a contest that will almost certainly be decided by turnover differential, Pees will use Byard as a moveable chess piece in an attempt to confuse a quarterback he is extremely familiar with.