Keys to Victory: How the Titans can beat the Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens and their top-tier defense visit Nashville this weekend. What do the Titans need to do to come away with another win at home?
The Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens are two teams in similar situations. Both have 3-2 records, are right in the mix of the AFC playoff hunt, and are trying to rebound from disappointing losses where their offenses failed to score a touchdown. Each team is looking to get back on track, but the Titans might face the tougher road to victory. Despite their home field advantage, the Titans are facing a Ravens team that has shown it has the firepower to blow past teams, as well as a staunch defense that has stifled opponents throughout the season. So what do the Titans have to do to beat them?
Shut down John Brown
The Titans defense has been rather impressive thus far. They have the 7th fewest yards allowed per game, 3rd in TDs allowed per game, and 12th overall in terms of defensive DVOA. But one area they have struggled in is allowing big plays. Out of the 8 TDs the Titans have allowed, 5 of them have been for 25 yards or more. Allowing big plays is not an ideal weakness to have when you are facing John Brown.
John Brown finally appears to be healthy after multiple injury plagued years in Arizona, and it shows. In the Ravens 3 wins, Brown has 11 catches for 246 yards and 2 TDs. That amounts to a whopping 22.36 yards per catch. The Titans have thrived on bend-don’t-break defense thus far, but Brown is type of player that can snap a defense in half. The Titans must find a way to prevent him from using his speed to beat them deep. The smart move would be to match up Adoree’ Jackson on Brown and stick Malcolm Butler on the physical Michael Crabtree. That plays to both CB respective strengths of speed (Jackson) and strength (Butler). Also, out of the 5 TDs I mentioned above, 4 of them involved Malcolm Butler in coverage..and the other TD was a kickoff return. So, perhaps the best way to prevent Brown from getting behind the defense is to make sure Butler isn’t guarding him.
Win the Turnover Battle
Yes, I realize that winning the turnover battle is a good foundation for winning any game. But it is especially important when facing a defense like the Ravens. Baltimore’s defense is currently ranked 4th overall by Football Outsiders DVOA metric. The Bengals are the only team that have scored more than 14 points against the Ravens this season. For a Titans team that is already struggling to put points on the board, this might not be the week for them to turn things around. But, as evidenced by their lack of points against Buffalo, the Titans can’t waste possessions; they need every opportunity at points that they can get and can’t afford to turn the ball over.
The Titans defense also needs to produce some takeaways. The Bengals forced 2 interceptions and a fumble, with two of the turnovers coming in Baltimore’s territory that eventually lead to 10 points. If the Titans defense can produce turnovers it will make life on the offense much easier. And the offense must do their part by holding on to the ball; it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Titans turn over the ball 3 times and beat the Ravens. Winning the turnover battle is always important, but it is especially true against a strong defensive team like the Ravens.
Corey Davis needs to channel AJ Green
As I mentioned earlier, the only team to have any sort of offensive success against the Ravens was the Cincinnati Bengals. And, as his fantasy owners fondly remember, a lot of that had to do with AJ Green and his 3 TDs. In fact, AJ Green has scored more points against the Ravens than any other team has. He didn’t have an impressive yardage total (Tyler Boyd is the only WR to date to eclipse 70 yards against BAL), but he made big plays to help his team win. Check out the effort here:
These are the types of plays that the Titans need out of their own #1 WR, Corey Davis. And this season he has shown he can make similar types of plays:
Is it realistic to think Corey can also put up 3 TDs on this defense? Not at all. But he is a 5th overall pick who was drafted for these types of moments. There are games when offense is hard to come by and you need to lean on your weapons to get things going. Baltimore’s defense is 5th in DVOA vs. #1 WRs, so Davis certainly won’t have a big game like he did against Philadelphia. But if the Titans are going to win, he is going to have to come through with some big plays and/or scores.