With a 72% win rate on the regular season, Fabian Sommer is looking to keep the good times rocking & rolling into Wild Card Weekend!
We are 10-4-2 (5.83x) on the season with this column and looking for win number eleven on the wild card weekend. Let’s dive into a very intriguing AFC matchup.
There’s a famous phrase: “All good things come in threes”. For the third time over a span of 12 months, the Tennessee Titans are listed as underdogs against the Baltimore Ravens.
The first time they closed as 10-point underdogs in last year’s divisional round.
About six weeks ago, they closed as 6-point dogs at Baltimore.
They won both games straight up. With the current price hanging between +3 and +3.5, can they do the threepeat?
This matchup is different.
The Titans shocked the world in the playoffs, but they had a much better (run) defense back then and stopped Baltimore on several 4th & short situations.
The Ravens also have an improved run defense this time.
In the first matchup this season, the Ravens were playing bad offensively and suited up without DE Calais Campbell and DT Brandon Williams, two very important run defenders.
Despite that, they held Derrick Henry to 44 yards on 18 carries through the first three quarters and were up 21-10 late in the third. During the last quarter, Henry finally broke out for some chunk plays.
One could assume that those guys along the defensive line got worn out playing 50 or more snaps. With two minutes to go in the game, Ryan Tannehill threw short of the sticks on 3rd & 10 in the Ravens red zone, AJ Brown broke four tackles (!) and somehow marched into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with two defenders hanging at his jersey.
They eventually won in overtime.
A lot of things went well for the Titans in the past two games.
The Ravens made some changes to their offense.
They shuffled their offensive line, give more touches to Dobbins at the perimeter and counter a lot with Lamar Jackson on inside runs.
The passing game looks a lot better, too.
Before week 13, the Ravens were averaging 0.04 EPA/play (#18). From week 13 onwards, they have been averaging 0.36 EPA/play (#3) and 0.34 EPA/play (#1) on the ground.
On the season, they are back to being the best rushing offense. Of course, that’s vastly above expectation and unsustainable. And they played some weak defenses. They did, however, destroy those teams, the offense looks a lot different on tape and it’s not like they are going to face a strong defense.
Defensively, Tennessee ranks 25th in EPA/rush (-0.01) and 28th in EPA/dropback (0.24).
For instance, the Titans defense ranked 7th against the run in 2019. Just over the past two games, they were gashed by AJ Dillon and David Johnson on the ground. The Texans – the worst rushing offense in the league – played without both of its starting tackles and didn’t call a single designed run for Deshaun Watson. They ran for a whopping 0.21 EPA/play against Tennessee.
It’s hard to see a path on which the Titans generate a lot of key stops in this game, against a red-hot Ravens offense.
The Titans offense is good – there’s no doubt about it.
They have orchestrated an efficient passing game once again. But other than the Ravens offense, they are actually facing a pretty good defense that is finally close to full strength. Over the second half of the season, Baltimore’s defense has been dealing with injuries at DL, LB and CB. They are able to contain the run and they’ve got cornerbacks like Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, who can man up against Corey Davis and AJ Brown.
Tennessee is a run-first offense as they are calling runs at the highest rate in the league in early down situation when the game state is “neutral”. And OC Arthur Smith has shown us over and over again that they intend on running the ball, no matter the opponent or the matchup. Even though their strategy was terrible against opponents like the Steelers or Packers, they started abandoning it too late, when the game got out of hand.
This could be their neck breaker as the Ravens should be able to score points early and often and Baltimores defense is built to stop offenses that are in obvious passing situations – with a lot of blitzes and good coverage behind that.
I think the Ravens are the clearly better team and they got the better offensive matchup to control a game script that is unfortunate for the Titans and their defense.
- Baltimore Ravens -3.0 (-119 / 1.84)