The Tennessee Titans are in a tailspin right now. They have lost three of their last four games after starting 5-0. I am sure you have heard that plenty of times by now.
It isn’t going to get easier for the Titans moving forward, though. Their next three games are versus teams ahead of them in the AFC Playoff Picture. A win is critical for tie-breaking scenarios and, of course, divisional positioning.
First up are the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens come in at 6-3, much like the Tennessee Titans, and are fighting for their playoff lives in a division with the 6-3 Cleveland Browns and the 9-0 Pittsburgh Steelers.
Let’s take a look at the history between these two franchises, where they stand now, and what needs to happen for a Titans win.
THE PAST: CLOSELY CONTESTED
These two teams were former divisional rivals. The Tennessee Titans battled the Baltimore Ravens consistently from 1996 to 2001 in the AFC Central Division.
The series between these two squads is all knotted up at 12 games apiece, with the Titans winning the most recent contest in the divisional round of the 2019 Playoffs.
Most of the success for the Titans verus the Ravens has come on the road recently. The Titans have traveled to Baltimore five times since 2002 and came away with wins in three of them.
The Tennessee Titans are 6-5 all-time in Baltimore with their last loss there coming in 2014.
Since 1999, 15 of their 18 matchups were all decided by one or two scores. These two teams have always been known for their stout defense, but that isn’t the case this time around.
THE PRESENT: RUN THE FOOTBALL
The Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens have had similar identities before. In the past, it was good defense. Now, both teams boast good, respectable rushing attacks.
The Titans rushing attack ranks sixth in the NFL as a whole, but they boast the number two running back in the NFL in Derrick Henry. Henry is just 54 yards away from his third consecutive 1,000-yard season.
They also have two quality backup running backs in D’Onta Foreman and Jeremy McNichols. Both have proven themselves reliable for the Titans in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, the Ravens have a unique rushing attack. They currently obtain the NFL’s third-best rushing offense at 164 yards per game, and that’s thanks to the weapon they have in Lamar Jackson.
Jackson is averaging 58.2 yards per game this season. Although that is 22.2 yards less than what he averaged last season in his MVP year (80.4), it still ranks second among quarterbacks and puts him at 22nd in the league overall in that category.
Henry is averaging 105.1 yards per game, which ranks him second in the league behind Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook. The big running back is averaging 4.71 yards per attempt, and leads the league with 201 carries so far this season.
With good rushing attacks, you should have a good rush defense too, right? Well, Baltimore kind of does. They have the 11th-best rush defense in the NFL, holding their opponents to 109.7 yards per game.
Meanwhile, the Titans’ rush defense comes in at 18th, allowing 120.7 yards per game. The Ravens will bring unique looks with a mobile quarterback, so the Titans’ rush defense will need to contain that.
This Sunday will be one to watch if you love good rushing attacks. We should see plenty of Derrick Henry on the Titans side, and plenty of Lamar Jackson scrambling on the Ravens’ side, taking advantage of the Titans’ lack of a pass rush
THE FUTURE: KEYS TO THE GAME
If the Tennessee Titans want to win this game, it’s simple. They will need to contain Lamar Jackson.
Ok fine, it isn’t that simple, but the Titans have done it before. Granted, they had Dean Pees as defensive coordinator and not the Mike Vrabel, Shane Bowen duo. If Vrabel replicates Pees’ gameplan, the Titans should have no issue stopping Lamar Jackson.
The Titans’ non-existent pass rush will need to be, well, existent on Sunday. You don’t want to give Jackson time in the pocket, and you sure as heck don’t want him running around freely.
Jackson is running the ball at about the same pace per game as he was last season. So, the Ravens aren’t much different than what the Titans saw in 2019. They just need to make him uncomfortable again and force him to beat you without his legs.
On offense, the Titans need to feed the king. Although they have the 11th-ranked rush defense, the Ravens are still allowing right around Derrick Henry’s average per game.
Run the ball down their throats, and that should help with pass protection because it could open up the play-action rollouts that Tannehill is so good at.
If the Tennessee Titans can do that on Sunday, there is a good chance they exit Baltimore with a 7-3 record. This is a must-win game for both teams, so we will see who wants a playoff spot the most.
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