Scouting the Opponent is a weekly preview series looking ahead to the Titans upcoming matchup.
The Titans (6-3) travel to Baltimore this weekend to take on the Ravens (6-3), bringing with them a lot of history. Surely you remember the heated AFC Central rivalry between the Tennessee Oilers and Baltimore Ravens.
Most recently, the 9-7 Titans knocked the top-seeded 14-2 Ravens out of the playoffs in front of their home crowd.
Although not quite as important, this year’s matchup carries plenty of significance with both teams needing wins to advance their quests for a playoff berth.
For yet another matchup, the Titans have the advantage in most offensive statistics and a major disadvantage in the defensive categories.
|25th||Total Yards Allowed/G||8th|
|28th||Pass Yards Allowed/G||7th|
|18th||Rush Yards Allowed/G||11th|
|1st (+10)||Turnover Differential||T-9th (+3)|
|13th (+14)||Point Differential||3rd (+79)|
|9th (44.9%)||3rd D Conversions||11th (43.6%)|
|31st (55.2%)||3rd D Defense||2nd (33.6%)|
|17th (51 YPG)||Penalty Yardage||29th (60.9 YPG)|
|31st||Special Teams DVOA||2nd|
|5th||Rush DVOA – Offense||11th|
|2nd||Pass DVOA – Offense||22nd|
|21st||Rush DVOA – Defense||3rd|
|9th||Pass DVOA – Defense||10th|
*DVOA is a Football Outsiders metric that stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. DVOA accounts for a team’s opponents.
A hidden weakness in this matchup is on special teams. The Titans are a good matchup for anyone’s special teams unit, but especially against this squad’s 2nd-ranked group by DVOA.
The Ravens are one of the most penalized teams in football. That’s one spot the Titans could see some help.
Key Matchups and Personnel
- Head Coach John Harbaugh took over in 2008. Last season’s AP Coach of the Year winner boasts a 134-84 career record with a Super Bowl victory in 2012.
- Greg Roman coached against Harbaugh in Super Bowl XLVII and joined his staff in 2018. He took over as offensive coordinator last season, where he crafted an offense for Lamar Jackson and was rewarded with an AP NFL Assistant Coach of the Year award. Roman’s offense in 2020 has failed to match last year’s high-octane output but still poses an explosive threat.
- Don Martindale took over as defensive coordinator when Dean Pees “retired” (the first time). The Ravens defense has been a stout and talented unit in his tenure and heading into this game they own the league’s top scoring defense.
Some key matchups that could shape the outcome of this game include:
- WR A.J. Brown / WR Corey Davis vs CB Marlon Humphrey / CB Marcus Peters
The Ravens corners have shut down opposing wide receivers all season. Only two have finished with 81+ yards this year. Jimmy Smith’s status is uncertain (he was limited in Thursday’s practice), but Humphrey and Peters make a foreboding duo by themselves.
In the playoff matchup last season, Brown and Davis combined for 2 catches for 12 yards (and a touchdown on the Derrick Henry jump pass). Brown had an uncharacteristic, devastating drop last week. He’ll look to bounce back in a challenging matchup.
- OT Ty Sambrailo vs DE Yannick Ngakoue
For the second time this season, the Titans will face Ngakoue — he was a Minnesota Viking back in Week 3. Ngakoue is used to facing the Titans twice as a member of the Jaguars, but he’ll now do so for two different teams in one season.
Sambrailo played 76% of the snaps in Week 3’s matchup against Ngakoue. He had a bit of a rough go, even running the wrong way on an outside zone play, but he’s settled in since entering midway through that game. He’ll need to hold his own in this rematch.
- OLB Harold Landry vs OT Orlando Brown
With Ronnie Stanley out for the season after tearing his ACL, Brown has been moved over to left tackle. That means he’ll see plenty of Landry, who could have a speed advantage. Coming out of college, the biggest knock on Brown — who has been a very good pro for Baltimore — was his lack of footspeed. Either Landry will be able to bend the corner on Brown, or Brown will use his length to bury Landry into the turf.
- RB Derrick Henry vs … the Ravens defense
The Ravens acquired Calais Campbell in a trade this offseason, but he’s likely to miss this game with a calf injury, as is hulking nose tackle Brandon Williams. They also signed Derek Wolfe to a one-year deal this offseason to bolster a unit that Henry ran through in January for 195 yards on 30 carries.
This could be a game where time of possession is important, with both teams relying heavily on the ground game as the basis for their offensive attack.
- LB Rashaan Evans vs RB Mark Ingram, RB Gus Edwards, RB J.K. Dobbins
No, it won’t solely be Evans responsible for the Ravens running backs, but I’ve highlighted him specifically due to his struggles in run defense. Comments from the coaching staff this week indicate that Evans may play more of a pass rushing role, but that could involve setting the edge in the run game against a team like the Ravens. I’m interested to see how he’s deployed.
Baltimore has controlled the game in most of their wins by pounding it down opponents’ throats with their three-headed backfield, in addition to Jackson’s abilities as a runner. The Titans run defense will need to have their best game to be effective. Williams’ and Campbell’s expected absences could create an opportunity for Tennessee.
- Titans 3rd down offense vs Ravens 3rd down defense
The Titans are 9th in the league converting third downs at a 44.9% mark, but over the last three weeks, they rank just 17th at 41.2%. The Ravens are 2nd on 3rd down defense, allowing opponents to convert just 33.6% of tries, and just 31.3% over the past three weeks.
It’ll be important for the Titans to stay ahead of schedule to create manageable third down situations against a defense that is so good on the money down.