As the second half of the 2020 NFL regular season gets into full swing, the playoff races in both conferences are beginning to take shape. Within a competitive AFC that has nine teams sporting at least a 6-3 record, Baltimore and Tennessee must keep winning to stay in the race.
The Ravens have it particularly tough as they are already three games behind 9-0 Pittsburgh in the AFC North. To make matters more interesting, the Browns somehow share an identical 6-3 record.
Tennessee is also in the mix as one of six AFC teams with the same record.
Needless to say, this game is crucial for both teams and projects to be a slugfest with two of the top rushing teams in the league squaring off. Neither team relies on the passing game to control the game on offence and field position will be an important factor. Baltimore’s 30th ranked passing attack (198.4 YPG) showed signs of life last as Lamar Jackson passed for 249 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-17 loss against New England. That total was his highest since throwing for 275 yards in a season opening win against Cleveland.
Baltimore relies on the truest backfield-by-committee as Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, and JK Dobbins all get work, although Dobbins has seemed to fall out of favour lately. Tennessee struggles against the pass (287.3 YPG, 28th) and Jackson does have weapons with Marquise Brown and Willie Snead at wide receiver, along with Mark Andrews at tight end.
For the Titans to have a chance to win on the road, RB Derrick Henry must lead the way. Henry has been up and down this season at times but is still compiling impressive numbers and with 54 more yards, he’ll break 1,000+ yards for the third time in his career. The Titans must control the clock and get another solid performance from Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. Tannehill is once again having a nice under the radar season with 20 touchdowns against just 3 interceptions. Like Baltimore, Tennessee doesn’t impress statistically via the air but also have playmakers at the skill positions. Wide receiver AJ Brown and tight end Jonnu Smith are tied for the team lead with six touchdowns and must be accounted for by a resurgent Ravens’ defense.
After a couple tough early games against the Chiefs and Steelers, Baltimore has returned to their franchise staple of impactful defense. The Ravens lead the NFL with 10 fumble recoveries and are a top-10 unit in both passing and rushing yards allowed per game.
Tennessee should be able to keep it close early if Henry can get it going. However, the Ravens are a better team defensively and have the dual threat of Lamar Jackson which gives them an edge on offense.
Look for a close, low scoring game where one or two plays could be the difference. I feel that Baltimore is the superior team and has a slight advantage playing at home as well.
Prediction: Ravens (-5) 27 – 20 Titans