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Ravens News 1/7: Red zone advantage and more

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NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens to host Tennessee Titans: 4 ways Tennessee poses a challenge - Aaron Kasinitz

2) Tannehill held up against blitzes this season

Though Tannehill struggled against the Patriots’ top-notch defense, he enjoyed a scorching run through the regular season and finished the year as the NFL’s top-rated passer. His efficiency, coupled with Henry’s talents, helped the Titans score touchdowns in the red zone at the highest rate in the NFL this year.

Most importantly in regards to the divisional round matchup, Tannehill thrived while facing pressure. He posted a 69.6 completion percentage and a 120.3 passer rating against the blitz in the regular season.

With defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale calling plays, the Ravens rely on the blitz more heavily than any other team.

Tannehill has fallen victim to pressure in some senses (he’s been sacked four or more times in six of his 11 starts), but he’s also shown he can deliver accurate throws and move the ball when dealing with extra rushers. He tossed a touchdown pass against the Patriots on Saturday while absorbing a blow from a blitz.

He’ll have plenty of opportunities to prove he can continue his strong play against blitzes Saturday in Baltimore.

How the Titans Match Up Against the Ravens - Ryan Mink

Titans’ defense gives up yards and TDs, but gets takeaways

Led by former Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees, the Titans defense may look familiar to Baltimore fans in some ways. The Titans finished ranked 21st in the NFL this year in yards allowed per game (359.5), but 12th in points allowed per game (20.7). They were tied for 10th in takeaways (23). Those numbers portray a bend-but-don’t-break defense.

However, Tennessee ranked 31st in the NFL this year in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on 68.1 percent of opponents’ trips inside the 20-yard line. They did get a big stop in New England though. Baltimore’s offense ranked second in the red zone, scoring 67.2 percent of the time. The only team with a better touchdown rate in the red zone was … the Titans, at 75.6 percent. Baltimore’s defense, which had the third-best mark in the red zone (47.7 percent) may make the difference.

PFF Rankings: Top 25 cornerbacks through Week 17 - Solomon Wilcots

4. MARCUS PETERS, BALTIMORE RAVENS

A return to discipline has led to the return of success for Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters. As a true press man-to-man cover corner, Peters has always had a knack for baiting some of the league’s best quarterbacks. But with greater focus, Peters has improved from allowing quarterbacks to complete 68.5% of their passes in 2018 to limiting passers to a 57.7% completion rate in 2019.

After allowing 14.9 yards per reception on throws into his coverage in 2018, Peters has allowed just 11.9 yards per reception this season while producing his trademark pick-six a whopping three times. The above play illustrates how Peters baits Russell Wilson by sinking into a Cover-2 zone look while staying true to his man-coverage responsibility. Peters gave Wilson the illusion of an open receiver then steals the pass for a pick-six.

Peters allowed a 14th-ranked passer rating of 73.3 through Week 17 this season just a year after he allowed a 72nd-ranked 109.9 rating in 2018; he has helped transform the Ravens’ secondary into one of the very best in the league.

12. MARLON HUMPHREY, BALTIMORE RAVENS

The rare combination of speed and aggression makes Marlon Humphrey a unique player at the cornerback position. His 330 press coverage snaps in 2019 are the third-most among any corner ranked in the top 25, and while Humphrey is aggressive, he is no sucker for the double-move.

He has allowed just 10.4 yards per reception so far this year, the 16th-best mark in the NFL, and his 12 forced incompletions rank tied for 13th among all corners league-wide. Humphrey’s long-range speed helps eliminate the deep ball while giving him the confidence to break on intermediate routes, and he allowed just a 49.3 passer rating on throws targeted 10-plus yards past the line of scrimmage, sixth-best among qualifying corners. He now joins Marcus Peters to form a remarkable cornerback tandem in the Ravens’ secondary.

NFL playoff picks, predictions against spread: 49ers sink Vikings, Chiefs rip Texans in divisional games - Vinnie Iyer

Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens (-9)

The Titans’ game plan is evident: Run Derrick Henry as hard and as much as possible to wear down the Ravens’ defense, finish drives, work the clock and keep Lamar Jackson off the field. The problem is, the Ravens are capable of flipping that script with Jackson and Mark Ingram to limit the opportunities for Henry and Ryan Tannehill. Jackson will force the Titans into uncomfortable situations with his running. Baltimore’s offensive line will win the battle against Tennessee’s front to facilitate everything, including downfield shots to wide receiver Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews.

The Ravens will contain Henry and force Tannehill to throw more one-dimensionally than he would like against a deep secondary, inside and out. The Ravens, who will protect both their QB and the ball, have dominated too much through 12 straight victories to trip up at home against the No. 6 seed.

Pick: Ravens win 30-17 and cover the spread.