With the Ravens hoping to improve to 7-3 in a 2019 postseason rematch with Tennessee on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. With Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams officially doubtful to play after missing practices all week, an undermanned defensive line will be led by Derek Wolfe, who played well against New England. Given the very quick turnaround, you wonder if Campbell or Williams will be available at Pittsburgh.
2. I’ve tried to avoid speculating too much about the lineup this week, but I do expect to see the fifth different starting offensive line combination of the season against the Titans. Last week certainly showed the coaching staff’s willingness to make changes on the fly as well.
3. The Tennessee offensive line is also in rough shape with starting left guard Rodger Saffold out and starting center Ben Jones listed as questionable. The Titans lost three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan to a season-ending knee injury last month.
4. This feels like a week to get Lamar Jackson on the move more than usual with designed runs, bootlegs, and rollouts to help the offensive line. Jackson has rushed 11 or more times in each of the last three games after doing that just once in the first six.
5. The attention has been on Campbell and Williams, but the anticipated return of L.J. Fort is an underrated positive after rookie inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison really struggled against New England. Fort entered Week 11 ranked 10th among qualified linebackers in Pro Football Focus’ grading.
6. Ryan Tannehill hasn’t been as good in November or as remarkably great using play-action as he was last season, but 20 touchdowns, three interceptions, and a 106.9 passer rating make it clear the Titans quarterback hasn’t turned back into a pumpkin after his surprising 2019. I admittedly had my doubts.
7. After failing to force a turnover for the first time in the regular season since Week 3 of last year, the Ravens now face a Tennessee team with an NFL-low four giveaways. Baltimore also failed to record a takeaway in the playoff loss to the Titans. Something has to give.
8. Patrick Ricard has played 32.5 percent of the offensive snaps this season, so he seems like a logical choice to assume a sizable portion of Nick Boyle’s blocking workload. It’ll be interesting to see how the run blocking evolves without Boyle.
9. This matchup is headlined by the uncertainty in the trenches for both teams, but the Ravens enjoy their largest edge on special teams. Per Football Outsiders, the Titans rank last in field goal efficiency and 30th in punting efficiency. Ouch.
10. Of the 32 Ravens players who played 15 or more snaps on offense or defense in the playoff loss last January, 13 are either no longer with the organization or currently unavailable due to injury. We forget how quickly these rosters change.
11. Pro Bowl voting prompts plenty of self-promotion on social media, so props to DeShon Elliott for honesty on the subject (see below). That said, the third-year safety has been a rock-solid replacement for Earl Thomas and could be a pivotal figure slowing both Derrick Henry and the Titans’ play-action passing game.
12. I try not to give much oxygen to online creeps who harass players and their families after poor performances, but seeing so many Ravens fans respond by supporting the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation in Matt Skura’s name was cool. There’s always a human being behind bad snaps and disappointing losses.
Prediction: “It starts up front” is one of football’s oldest mantras, but both teams have issues on each side of the line of scrimmage. Though there’s no shortage of urgency for either team, the Ravens offense will awaken and the defense will regroup just enough to secure a tight 27-24 win.