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Ravens at Titans: 5 players to watch

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The playoffs are here! The Baltimore Ravens will face the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. Here are five players to watch:

J.K. Dobbins

In their last playoff meeting, the Ravens made a mistake by veering away from the run and deploying a pass-heavy approach. Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards combined for only nine carries that game. They should learn from that mistake this time around and stay true to their offensive identity. Rookie J.K. Dobbins has been sensational since taking over as the starter. He is leading all NFL running backs with 6.0 yards per carry this season; Nick Chubb is second with 5.6 yards per carry. In addition, Dobbins has seven rushing touchdowns in his last six games.

Surprisingly, the Titans have actually had trouble stopping the run over their last two games. The Packers were able to rush for 234 yards in their victory over the Titans two weeks ago, while the Texans averaged 5.6 yards per carry in their near-upset last week. Continuing to feed Dobbins will be key on Sunday.

Marquise Brown

The Titans defense has struggled to contain opposing wide receivers. This season, they have given up 36 passing touchdowns, which is the second-highest mark in the league. Let’s take a look at the numbers of opposing team’s number one wide receivers against the Titans over the past three weeks:

Marvin Jones Jr. (Week 15): 10 receptions, 112 receiving yards, one touchdown

Davante Adams (Week 16): 11 receptions, 142 receiving yards, three touchdowns

Brandin Cooks (Week 17): 11 receptions, 166 receiving yards, two touchdowns

Brown struggled against the Titans in the regular season. He was targeted three times and failed to record a reception. However, he went on to score six touchdowns across his next six games; he previously had two touchdowns in his first ten games this season. Brown needs to exploit this matchup and have a big game.

Patrick Mekari

Mekari returned to practice on Wednesday.

He missed last week’s game against the Bengals, and Trystan Colon-Castillo played well in his place. Still, Mekari has proven himself to be an excellent pass blocker. Last season, Mekari did not allow a single sack during the regular season. This season, he has the second-highest PFF pass block grade among centers.

The Titans were able to sack Lamar Jackson four times last postseason. However, this is a very different team. Two of those sacks were courtesy of defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, who is now with the Denver Broncos. Last season, the Titans had a total of 43 sacks. This season, they had a mere 19 sacks, which was the third-fewest in the NFL. This was evident in their Week 11 meeting, as the Titans only recorded one sack against the Ravens. With Jadeveon Clowney on the IR, the Titans will rely on outside linebacker Harold Landry and defensive tackle Jefferey Simmons to generate pressure. Simmons is second on the Titans with 21 pressures.

If Mekari can contain Simmons, Lamar Jackson should have plenty of time to throw the football.

Marcus Peters

Let’s look at Tennessee’s last loss. The Packers defense was able to contain the Titans’ passing offense; Ryan Tannehill completed 11 out of 24 passes for 121 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. On the other hand, Tannehill found some success against the Ravens earlier this season, as he completed 22 out of 31 passes for 259 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. That was, in part, due to the performance of Corey Davis. He had five receptions for 113 yards. Davis gained 50 yards after beating Peters on this play:

It will be extremely difficult to shut down Derrick Henry, but the Ravens are definitely capable of containing Tannehill and Davis. Peters and the Ravens’ secondary will need to play at a high level on Sunday.

Brandon Williams

Speaking of Henry, it is no secret that he is the focal point of Tennesse’s offense. This season, Henry rushed for 2,027 yards, which is the fifth-highest single-season total in NFL history.

Williams is an integral piece of Baltimore’s run defense. His basic statistics do not measure his full impact. The Ravens have allowed 150+ rushing yards only three times this season. Here are those games:

Week 6 at Eagles: 194 rushing yards

Week 10 at Patriots: 173 rushing yards

Week 11 vs. Titans: 173 rushing yards

There is a common thread here. Williams missed both the Week 6 and Week 11 games, and he played only five defensive snaps in Week 10 against the Patriots due to an ankle injury. Furthermore, the Ravens have held opponents to under 100 rushing yards seven times this season, and Williams was active for six of those games.