From scary to simple: Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense’s free-fall - Jamison Hensley
Heading into the playoffs last season, Baltimore was shredding defenses, averaging the most offensive points (30.4) and the second-most yards (407.6) per game. After getting shut down by the Titans in a 28-12 playoff defeat, the Ravens haven’t been the same electric offense, ranking No. 16 in offensive points scored (24.0) and No. 22 in yards (348.1) a little over halfway through this season.
Injuries, lack of execution and discipline as well as personnel decisions have all led to a sudden and unexpected decline, which has now become part of a national discussion in the football world.
The Ravens’ difficulties on offense go beyond coaching and the players. The front office focused most of its biggest moves on the defense, trading for defensive end Calais Campbell and pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue and using its first-round pick on middle linebacker Patrick Queen. Meanwhile, other young quarterbacks landed No. 1 wide receivers this offseason. The Arizona Cardinals acquired DeAndre Hopkins for Kyler Murray and the Buffalo Bills got Stefon Diggs for Josh Allen.
“A fundamental change has to happen in this offense,” ESPN analyst Steve Young said. “Look at the Cardinals. Look at what they’re doing offensively. Just copy that. The explosiveness of the passing game and rushing. They’ve won a lot of games. They’ve won MVPs. But they will not win Super Bowls with this offense. And Lamar is not going to progress. He’s so much more talented than even he’s showing today. But they’re not asking him to do it. To me, they got to switch.”
Headline of the game: Both teams need a win to get back on track in the AFC
Both of these teams are trending in the wrong direction. Tennessee has lost three of its past four games, with the only win coming against a floundering Bears’ team, while Baltimore has lost two of three. Offense has been the problem in both cases. From Week 7 through Week 10, the Titans ranked 20th in expected points added per play and the Ravens ranked 24th. The causes aren’t necessarily the same for both teams, but each is finding out that it’s hard to consistently win football games in the NFL when fielding a below-average offense.
That problem has plagued the Ravens, in particular, all year. With a year of tape at their disposal, teams have begun to adjust to Baltimore’s unique offense. That, combined with a decline in play from 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson, has the group looking like a shell of the version we saw last season. Baltimore needs to break out of that funk to become a true challenger to teams such as the Chiefs and Steelers at the top of the AFC.
The Titans have allowed opponents to convert 53.2% of fourth downs, which ranks 31st in the NFL
The Ravens have not generated explosive plays on offense at a high rate, so they might be happy to know that the Titans’ defense has been vulnerable to long drives this season.
Part of the reason Tennessee has a hard time getting opponents off the field is because the team lacks pass-rushing oomph. The Titans have totaled 11 sacks through nine games, tied for the second-fewest in the NFL, and newcomer Jadeveon Clowney hasn’t dropped a quarterback all year.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the NFL’s reigning MVP, has been searching to recapture the consistent success he enjoyed last year.
Against the Titans, the best path to do that is to regularly move the chains on third down.
It will be a long day for the Ravens if their young defensive linemen – and the defense as a whole – doesn’t improve on its performance from last week.
“It’s going to take a great effort. It’s going to take all we’ve got,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “They’re a very good run-blocking offensive line. Obviously, [Henry is] a downhill runner right at the top of the heap.”
“He’s the best running back in the NFL. You know what they’re going to do. They know everybody knows what they’re going to do. They’re going to give it to him 30 to 40 times per game and he’s going to run it down your throat whether you like it or not,” Elliott said.
“We’ve just got to figure out a way to slow him down. You’ve got to get to him before he gets going. If you get to him before that train gets going, you’ve got a chance. But he’s going to get the ball regardless. So you better have your helmet strapped up and be ready for this ride. You better come downhill and hit him every time.”
“Brandon and Calais, they’re great vets, great parts of our defense,” Madubuike said. “It’s a standard here at the Ravens and it’s a brotherhood. It’s next man up. We’re all equipped to handle any situation on defense when a guy goes down.”
NFL Week 11 picks: Packers and Eagles among underdogs to win, Dolphins keep rolling and more - Pete Prisco
The Ravens have offensive issues, but the best thing to fix that is this Tennessee defense. The Titans upset the Ravens in the playoffs last year, but this Titans team has major defensive issues. The Ravens had run-defense issues last week against the Patriots, which isn’t a good thing against Derrick Henry. But I think they get back on track in that area in this one. Ravens win it behind a good offensive showing.
Pick: Ravens 31, Titans 24