Week 7 was the Turning Point for Both Titans and Ravens
Before we look ahead to this Saturday’s Divisional Round matchup, it’s important to go back to week 7. It was a turning point for both the Ravens and Titans for different reasons.
For the Ravens, week 7 solidified their defense when they added Marcus Peters, first team All-Pro, leading up to their road trip to Seattle. Going into that game, Russell Wilson was the MVP front runner, and had not thrown an interception yet on the year. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens were 4-2, but lost a stinker to the Browns, and failed their test against the highly acclaimed Chiefs.
Peters picks up a pick-six. Lamar Jackson called off the kicking team and they went for a crucial 4th down and ended up scoring a rushing touchdown, putting the team on his back. The Ravens set the tone for the rest of the season starting right there and haven’t slowed down since their 30-16 win, sending them to 5-2, their third win in their current 12-game win streak.
For the Titans, week 7 was the start of the Ryan Tannehill era. Marcus Mariota was sent to the bench partway through a 16-0 loss to Denver, sending them to 2-4 on the season. Against the LA Chargers the following week, Tannehill went 23/29 for 312 yards, two TDs and one INT in a 23-20 win, cementing him atop the depth chart. They would end up winning six of their next seven games before losing two of three to finish the regular season.
Counting the playoff win in Foxboro, the Ryan Tannehill led Titans are 8-3 since he took over as the starter. Not your typical six seeded team in the playoffs to say the least. The Titans have been hot since week 7, big emotional win last week. The Ravens found their groove, their identity week 7, and have been well rested of late.
Interesting battle coming up. So, as we dive into the numbers, let’s do so from week 7 on. It’s almost like two completely different teams were on the field before that.
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Leading off with the quarterback comparison (Note: Tannehill has played two more games than Jackson from week 7 to the present)
Ryan Tannehill: 68.8%, 75.7% adjusted. 2,670 yards, 9.4 Y/A, 23 TDs, 6 INTs, 28 sacks, 90.5 passing grade (1st).
Lamar Jackson: 67.0%, 78.1% adjusted. 1,620 yards, 7.9 Y/A, 25 TDs, 1 INT, 7 sacks, 90.1 passing grade (2nd).
It’s worth noting here that in rate stats, in various situations, that Tannehill and Jackson have been pretty even, and near the top of their games. Under pressure, no pressure, play action, no play action, deep passing. No advantage or disadvantage there.
The 28 sacks of Tannehill tell us that QB legs will be a factor. While Tannehill takes sacks for negative yards, perhaps brining a drive to an end, or moving them out of field goal range and into punting range, Lamar Jackson will probably be turning a third down into a first down and extending their drives.
The Ravens will also need to limit the big play potential of Titans receiver A.J. Brown. Since week 7, he is leading the NFL in yards per catch (20.1) and yards after catch per catch (8.9). His 39 catches in the last 11 games isn’t surprising given the run heavy nature of the Titans. But his 2.8 yards per route run, the best measure of a receiver’s efficiency, ranks second since week 7 to Michael Thomas (2.82). Better than Julio Jones, Mike Evans, Tyreek Hill, DeAndre Hopkins, Devante Adams…you get the point.
The Ravens secondary will need to be on their best behavior to keep Brown down. A couple weeks off for the veterans, so you have to hope there is no communication breakdowns between the safeties and corners. All-Pro corners Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters that is. Along with Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas and “green dot” safety Chuck Clark.
I will be curious to see how often Brown finds himself one on one with a Ravens defender, given that the Titans liked to go with jumbo sets in the run game in their win over the Patriots. In order to keep Derrick Henry from running wild, they will have to match hats in the box meaning less DBs on the field at times, or Earl Thomas dropping down around the line of scrimmage, and the corners could be tested.
Speaking of Derrick Henry, you guessed it, he leads in all things rushing since week 7. In 10 games, he’s racked up 1,306 rushing yards. That is 419 more than second place, Nick Chubb, in that same span. League leading 5.8 Y/A on 224 attempts. Good news for the Ravens, Gus Edwards also averages 5.8 Y/A, but on 89 carries. Henry’s 4.68 yards after contact per attempt is crazy good. Among regular ball carriers, Nick Chubb is second at 3.93. Then Aaron Jones 3.61. Nose for the endzone with NFL an best 13 rushing TDs since week 7.
The Ravens don’t have one running back that matches the output of Derrick Henry. But they have a three headed attack. Mark Ingram’s status is up in the air for this one as he aggravated a calf injury in practice this week. Worth noting that between Ingram, Edwards, and Lamar Jackson, those three have rushed for a combined 1,599 yards since week 7. For Jackson that is designed rushing yards, not including scrambling. On 290 combined attempts, it’s 5.5 Y/A, and 3.58 yards after contact. 10 rushing TDs by the trio since week 7. They pick up the yardage, but a tick less efficiently than Henry.
One area the Ravens hold an advantage is on the O-line. Specifically pass blocking. Since week seven, they have allowed 37 pressures of Lamar Jackson/Robert Griffin III. Leading the league in pass blocking efficiency at 92.8. Tennessee checks in at 6th in efficiency but have allowed nearly double the pressure at 68 of them. Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan can play at the same level as Ravens All-Pro Ronnie Stanley, but the Titans don’t have the bookend on the right side that Orlando Brown is. Stanley has allowed three pressures since week 7. Leading the league among tackles. Brown has allowed six, second best in the league. Lewan, eight. Titans right tackle Jack Conklin…17.
Of the guards, Marshal Yanda (RG) four pressures allowed leads all guards. Bradley Bozeman (LG) nine, ranks fourth. For the Titans, Roger Saffold (LG) has also allowed nine. But Nate Davis (RG)…16.
Note to the Ravens. The right side is the weakest link of the Tennessee O-line. Believe it or not, Matt Judon has 125 pass rush attempts form the left side, and 125 pass rush attempts from the right side since week 7. The ambidextrous one has a combined pass rush productivity of 9.8 which ranks fifth in the NFL since week 7. Just behind T.J. Watt (11.8), former Raven Za’Darius Smith, Von Miller, and Shaq Barrett. Perhaps the best course of action is to line Judon up on Conklin’s side and turn him loose.
It’s a lot of numbers I’ve thrown at you here. But the deal is that The Titans are not your typical six seed. As the two teams have evolved over the season, you could consider this a matchup between the 10-0 Ravens and the 8-3 Titans. How much difference is there really? The Titans have gotten elite quarterback play from Ryan Tannehill since taking over. They have gotten elite play from running back Derrick Henry. They get big play potential from wide receiver A.J. Brown. At least half their O-line is as good as the Ravens, what if the other half shows up to play?
Point I’m making is that I feel a lot of people are checking this box already. All the experts on TV, those on the radio, treating this like a small hurdle, easy win, move on. I hope the Ravens aren’t listening to the noise. It’s not unheard of at all to see an underdog win on the road in the divisional round against a team with the bye. Happens often, seen the Ravens do just that plenty of times over the years to other teams.
I expect a closer game than others seem to. Vegas lists the Ravens as 10-point favorites. Generous. The x-factor is the MVP, Lamar Jackson. He and the Ravens have been able to dictate every game they’ve won, and they have won 12 straight games. In that streak no team has made the Ravens get away from what they like to do.
I will pick the Ravens to win. However, I think a game like their last real test, the Bills game over a month ago, seems more likely. 24-17, still in doubt in the 4th quarter.
Don’t get cocky.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]