Last week, the Baltimore Ravens routed the Miami Dolphins in a feisty Thursday Night brawl. The Ravens dominated every phase of the game. Joe Flacco was throwing missiles before he exited, Alex Collins rushed for over 100 yards, and the defense shut out the Dolphins while scoring two pick sixes. The game saved Baltimore’s playoff hopes, which would have all but dwindled away had they fallen to 3-5. Now, the Ravens are 4-4, and in the thick of the playoff hunt. This week they take on a similar team, eyeing a playoff berth as well, the Tennesse Titans. The Ravens need to win this game to get back above .500 and to stay in the hunt for the playoffs. Here are the three keys to a Ravens victory, along with who I think will leave victorious.
Alex Collins and Ravens Rushing Attack
It is no secret that the Baltimore Ravens’ offense has been stagnant all season. The Ravens are currently 31st in the NFL in total yards gained per game, and dead last in passing yards gained per game. Despite barely moving the ball, the Ravens have managed to score 21.2 points per game, the 17th best average in the NFL. Baltimore’s offense has been carried by the rushing attack. The ground game is currently lead by Alex Collins, who has amassed 478 yards on the ground, in just 80 carries. That is an astounding average of 6.0 yards per rushing attempt. The Ravens have also employed the help of Javorius “Buck” Allen, who has received the most carries of all his teammates. With 99 rushing attempts so far this year, Allen has rushed for 356 yards. For the Ravens offense to succeed in Nashville this Sunday, they will need the one-two punch of Collins and Allen to pound their way into the end zone. This will be a challenge though, as Tennesse’s defense is the 10th best in the league in stopping the run. They only give up an average of 100.1 yards per game.
Ravens Run Defense v.s. DeMarco Murray & Derrick Henry
The Baltimore Ravens are not the only team to have a one-two punch combo at running back. The Tennesse Titans currently have one of the most formidable running back combinations in the league, DeMarco Murray, and Derrick Henry. Both of the two running backs have rushed for over 300 yards respectively. Combined, the two have 703 yards on the ground. Murray and Henry are played to their very different strengths in Tennesse. Murray is a quick, shifty running back, with receiving capabilities, while Henry is a powerful downhill runner, who will plow his way through defenders. To stop both these running backs will be a major challenge for the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday. The Titans are currently ranked 8th in the league in rushing, gaining an average of 124.6 yards per game. The Ravens are ranked 30th in the NFL in rush defense, giving up an average of 132.8 yards per game. The only thing going for the Ravens in this matchup is momentum. Last week, Baltimore was able to shut down Jay Ajayi and the Miami Dolphins rushing attack, although it was already a weak facet of a weak offense, to begin with.
Containment of Marcus Mariota
Containing Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is going to be a significant challenge for the Baltimore Ravens. As previously stated, the Ravens run defense has been a weak point for Baltimore all season long. Along with the running backs, DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, Marcus Mariota poses a major threat. Mariota was dealing with a hamstring injury for the past few weeks, and his mobility was limited. However, Tennessee is coming off a bye week, and it appears as if Mariota’s hamstring has healed. Mariota is expected to have his electrifying mobility back this Sunday against the Ravens. If the Ravens want to come out on top of this key matchup, they will need to hold Mariota to minimal gains and force him to put the ball in the air. If Mariota is forced to throw the ball more than he wants to, the Ravens will be playing to their strengths in the secondary and will render a major part of Tennessee’s offense useless.
This matchup is a crucial one for both Baltimore and Tennessee. Both teams are eyeing a seed in the AFC playoffs, and both will likely contend for a Wildcard slot come December. Tennesse and Baltimore are similar teams, both have solid defenses, but have been sporadic on offense. Tennessee has lost to three teams this season, two of which are teams that the Ravens defeated. (The Raiders and Dolphins.) In Tennesee’s last game before the bye week, Tennesse almost lost in overtime to the Cleveland Browns but came out on top 12-9. Because the Titans are all over the place, the Ravens have the momentum after their Thursday night beatdown of the Dolphins, and Baltimore frankly needs the win more than Tennesse does, I’m picking the Ravens to come out on top.
- Joe Flacco throws for 150+ yards and one touchdown.
- Alex Collins rushes for 85 yards and one touchdown.
- Justin Tucker hits two field goals, misses none.
- Terrell Suggs racks up two sacks.
- Jimmy Smith lets up no passes.
- Marlon Humphrey gets his first ever NFL interception.
FINAL SCORE: Ravens 20 – Titans 17