NFL Divisional Round Preview: Players to watch, fantasy football advice and betting projections - PFF
Headline of the Game: The top two offenses in the NFL over the second half of the season square off with the AFC Championship on the line
Ever since the Titans made the move to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, their offense has been among the league’s best. Since that Week 7 game, they rank first in average yards per play, second in expected points added per play and second in the percentage of their drives that end in touchdowns. Tannehill has completely flipped the script on a disastrous 2018 performance with the Miami Dolphins, going from the lowest-graded quarterback in the NFL a season ago to the highest-graded quarterback this season. His number one target, A.J. Brown, was one of the top wide receivers in the entire league over the second half of the season, and Derrick Henry ran for more yards after contact than any other running back had total from Week 7 to Week 17. Their emergence as an offensive juggernaut has been one of the more surprising developments in the NFL.
The other team right there with them in all the offensive efficiency metrics is the Baltimore Ravens. The marriage of Greg Roman’s unique scheme and Lamar Jackson’s one-of-a-kind skillset is a problem. Jackson was the fifth-highest graded passer in the NFL over the course of the regular season. Perhaps more impressively, he was also the league’s highest-graded rusher regardless of position, as 37% of his rushes went for first downs or touchdowns (easily the highest rate of any qualifying rusher). Teams must contend with stopping the league’s top rushing and passing attacks when facing the Ravens. That’s easier said than done. Neither defense will have an easy task on Saturday night.
Ravens sign veteran offensive tackle Andre Smith - Nick Shook
Ravens’ Judon: Stopping Derrick Henry ‘starts with us’ - Kevin Patra
“Start fast. We want to hit him as many times as possible,” Judon said. “We know he’s a good running back, but it all starts with us. Our communication, our assignment, and our technique. As long as we do that, we’re going to be able to attack him in different ways that he hasn’t seen this year. We understand that he’s one of the best running backs in the league, and we can’t sleep on him because once he gets started he’s a hard tackle.”
“I really think it’s going to take all 11,” Humphrey said. “He’s 6-foot-3, and he has really elite speed also. He can run people over here and there all the time, but if he gets to the edge, he can really outrun you.”
How the Ravens Plan to Stop Red-Hot Ryan Tannehill - Clifton Brown
“They’re a big play-action, boot, a movement team,” Harbaugh said. “Ryan Tannehill has done just an excellent job with that. It’s been schemed up really well. It starts with the run game, of course. The run game is what makes all that go.”
Tannehill has also excelled against the blitz, which is an interesting aspect of Saturday’s matchup. The Ravens blitzed more than any team in the NFL this season and facing Tannehill is unlikely to change Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale’s aggressive approach.
However, blitzing against Tannehill this season hasn’t always led to stopping him. Including the Patriots game, Tannehill has completed 63 of 97 passes against blitz pressure this season (64.9 percent ) for 791 yards, seven touchdowns and just two interceptions, with a passer rating of 105.7. Tannehill’s success against the blitz has been a major part of him becoming a better quarterback than he was with the Miami Dolphins.
“It’s an extremely aggressive defense,” Tannehill said. “That’s going to be a key for us this week is being clean on all those things and try to take advantage of some opportunities that are there when they do pressure.”
2020 NFL Divisional Playoff odds, picks: AFC gives us one huge upset, 49ers advance to NFC title game - John Breech
No. 6 Tennessee (10-7) at No. 1 Baltimore (14-2)
I can’t say this for sure, but if Ravens coach John Harbaugh could have hand-picked his opponent out of any of the AFC wild-card teams, I have to think that the Titans would have ranked dead last on his list of teams he wanted to play, and that’s because, if the Ravens struggled with one thing this year, it was stopping the run.
On the surface, that might seem like a weird thing to say, because Baltimore only surrendered 93.4 yards per game on the ground this year, which ranked fifth in the NFL, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The ugly part for the Ravens is that they gave up 4.4 yards per rushing attempt, which isn’t ideal when you’re going up against a running back who is averaging 6.23 yards per carry over his last seven games. There was a thought that the Patriots could slow down Henry because they ranked sixth against the run, but like Baltimore, that number was deceiving, because they were giving up 4.2 yards per carry. Henry averaged 5.4 yards per carry against the Patriots in a game where the Titans totaled 201 yards on the ground.
Now, even if Henry runs wild, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Titans are going to win, and that’s because the Ravens have something the Patriots didn’t have on Saturday: Namely, a functional offense.
The one thing that does concern me about the Titans is that not only has their kicker (Greg Joseph) never attempted a playoff field goal, but he didn’t even attempt a field goal during the regular season. I really hope they don’t lose on a field goal.
The pick: Titans 27-24 over Ravens