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Ravens News 1/7: The Playoff Formula and more

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Tennessee Titans v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Final 2020 offensive line rankings - Ben Linsey


Losing Marshal Yanda to retirement in the offseason and Ronnie Stanley to injury midway through the 2020 season isn’t going to come without its struggles. Those were two of the better players in the NFL at their respective positions in 2019 and a big reason why the Ravens had one of the best offensive lines in the league.

Baltimore has dealt with plenty of moving pieces beyond those two losses, as well. Nine different offensive linemen played at least 100 offensive snaps throughout the regular season — the same number as some of the more beat-up offensive lines in the league like Philadelphia and Dallas.

All things considered, a middle-of-the-pack finish given that upheaval is not the worst of outcomes, and it’s an offensive line and offense that seems to be finding their rhythm heading into the postseason.

Lamar Jackson’s titanic hurdle: Capturing that elusive playoff win for the Ravens - Jamison Hensley

Jackson is 0-2 in the playoffs, totaling more turnovers (five) than touchdowns (three). He is trying to avoid becoming the second quarterback in the Super Bowl era to lose playoff openers in his first three seasons (Andy Dalton is the only one).

In talking with those close to Jackson, his postseason struggles don’t place any additional pressure on him this week.

“It’s not a cop-out answer: He’s going to think about beating the team we’re playing,” Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban said. “He is very single-minded. He has this unique ability to do that in a situation. You’ve seen it. ‘Hey, Coach, let’s run it. Let’s go for it.’ It’s that determination in the moment.”

“I definitely think that bout with COVID-19 was really eye-opening for him,” Roman said. “And just the appreciation for the opportunity to be around the teammates, and play this great game, was magnified, really, by that whole experience. So, I definitely noticed a little pep in his step.”

“He leaves his ego at the door, and to him, the ultimate goal is to win,” Ravens defensive end Derek Wolfe said. “That’s all he cares about is winning. You can’t ask for more from a quarterback than just to want to win — and his will to win. He’ll sacrifice his body and take off running and put himself in situations that a lot of quarterbacks wouldn’t put themselves in. So, I appreciate it; I know the rest of the team appreciates it. We’re behind him, no matter what.”

Calais Campbell Embraces Challenge of Derrick Henry - Clifton Brown

“Derrick Henry is one of the best running backs to ever play this game,” Campbell said. “He’s in a zone right now. I take pride in the challenge of lining up and trying to shut him down.”

Head Coach John Harbaugh knows that Campbell is a unique player who can be a difference-maker, and he looked healthy in Sunday’s 38-3 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

“It looks like’s physically he’s back,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a very strong, very agile big man. He can move laterally, he can extend, he can get off blocks, of course he takes up a lot of space. He’s a very athletic guy for a man his size and he knows how to play. He knows how to play the schemes, plays very hard. So he’s definitely a factor, a big factor.”

“I think you have to have confidence,” Campbell said. “It’s going to be hard work, it’s not going to be easy. There’s a quote hanging up on the wall, ‘We have what it takes, and it’s going to take all we have.’ We have all the pieces in place to be successful, from being able to run the ball, play physical, talented defense.

“In the playoffs, especially on the road in the playoffs, you have to be able to run the ball, play great defense, bring your special teams. That’s kind of been the formula throughout history.”

Our Guide To The NFL’s Wide-Open Wild-Card Weekend - Neil Paine

Tale of the tape: No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 5 Baltimore

This is easily the best and most compelling matchup of wild-card weekend. Tennessee upended Baltimore’s storybook season in last year’s playoffs, and the Titans won an OT thriller when the two teams met in November. So there’s a lot of history here. And though they play with different styles,2 both teams strike an unusually run-heavy offensive profile, finishing Nos. 1 and 2 in rushing yards per game this season. On paper, the big difference between the Titans and Ravens might simply come down to defense, where Baltimore ranks sixth in EPA and Tennessee ranks 27th this year. Then again, that didn’t seem to matter much in the previous two duels — when the Titans’ defense dramatically outplayed that of the Ravens, +1.4 EPA per game to -12.1. In those contests, we saw Tennessee both jump out to a significant lead and overcome a significant deficit, so the Ravens have yet to quite crack the formula for defeating their nemesis. But our model still likes them for the win on the road Sunday, with a 57 percent chance of finally earning their first playoff victory of the Lamar Jackson Era. Elo’s spread: Baltimore -2

NFL wild-card playoff picks: Bears shock Saints in New Orleans, Steelers and Browns play prime-time thriller - John Breech

No. 5 Baltimore (11-5) at No. 4 Tennessee (11-5)

As crazy as it sounds, I feel like the Ravens are the one team that Titans actually WANTED to face in the playoffs. The Ravens have struggled to stop the run this year and the Titans are not the team you want to be playing if you struggle to stop the run.

The Ravens surrendered 4.4 yards per carry this season, which might as well be 10.4 when you’re going up against a guy like Derrick Henry. Not only did Henry become just the eighth player in NFL history to hit the 2,000-yard mark this year, but he also averaged 5.4 yards per carry on the season while doing it. In Tennessee’s two wins over the Ravens, Henry has averaged 164 yards per game.

Henry having a big game is actually kind of important because if he’s on a roll, that means he’s on the field and Tennessee’s defense isn’t. The Titans defense has a lot of weaknesses and they need to keep it off the field at all costs. The fewer minutes the Titans have their defense on the field, the better. The Titans’ biggest weakness on defense is that they have absolutely zero pass-rush. The problem for the Ravens is that Lamar Jackson hasn’t shown to be the type of quarterback who can take advantage of that. We’ve seen guys like Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers pick the Titans apart, but that’s not how Jackson plays.

For the third time in 12 months, I’m going with the Titans.

The pick: Titans 34-31 over Ravens