It’s been a wild ride for the Tennessee Titans this year. From a 5-0 start to a coronavirus outbreak to the team’s recent performance – which has been just short of “terrible,” dropping three out of their last four, with their only victory an ugly one against the offensively tranquilized Bears at home – the Titans stumble into Baltimore for a Week 11 matchup against the Ravens.
And that ticking you hear isn’t Edgar Allen Poe’s tell-tale heart; it’s the countdown on the all-of-a-sudden dicey playoff odds for the Titans. What looked like a lock a few weeks ago isn’t quite that anymore. FanDuel has the Titans’ playoff odds at -205 and DraftKings has them at -210, and those numbers are in danger of dropping further if the Titans can’t pull off an upset this week against the Lamar Jackson-led Ravens.
To that point, the Ravens are 6.5-point favorites at DraftKings and 6-point favorites at FanDuel and BetMGM. Right now, the odds on the Titans covering is -110 across all three, so clearly DK would be the place to make that wager. However, it is worth noting this game started with the Ravens as 7-point favorites, and it’s clear the oddsmakers would prefer it not to get back to that number. If you’re looking to place a spread bet on the Titans, it’s probably worth the wait to see if it goes back to seven points.
On the moneyline, the best bang for a Titans buck is over at DraftKings at +225. The over/under is all over the place, with BetMGM coming in at 48.5, DraftKings at 49, and FanDuel at 49.5. Take it all in, the oddsmakers are putting this game squarely in the hands of the Ravens, with the projected score being in the 28-21 range.
Titans looking to pull upset
So can the Titans – who have an even more important Week 12 game against the now-division leading Colts – manage the upset?
It’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure. But let’s not forget it was less than a year ago when the surging Titans knocked off the Super Bowl-favored Ravens in Baltimore in an AFC Divisional round playoff matchup. And they didn’t just knock ‘em off – the 10-point underdog Titans walloped ‘em, 28-12. Derrick Henry rumbled for 195 yards, the Titans won the turnover battle 3-0, and the game was never really in doubt.
But a deeper dive under the hood shows a few cracks in the Titans’ engine during that game. For starters, despite having the ball for 28 minutes, the Titans only managed 300 yards of total offense to the Ravens’ 535 yards, and the Ravens had nearly twice the number of first downs. Additionally, they had trouble against Jackson, who passed for 365 yards and ran for another 143. Obviously, a lot of that yardage came with the Ravens trailing by multiple touchdowns, but it’s worth noting Jackson seemed to have his way.
This week, a lot of this game may come down to Jackson’s – and the Ravens three-headed backfield’s – legs. The Ravens are fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per attempt at 5.0, and they are second in the league in rushing attempts per game at 32.7.
On the other side of the ball, the Titans’ defense is 20th in the league in rushing yards per attempt at 4.5 and they’ve only faced 26.8 rushing attempts per game. It’s fair to assume the Ravens game plan is going to feature the ground game, and it’s also fair to wonder if the Titans’ run defense is going to be up to the challenge, especially considering the Titans’ run defense hasn’t been particularly challenged this year, matchup-wise. In fact, the only time they’ve played a team in the top-18 of rushing yards per game was in Week 3 against the Vikings, and the Vikes ran for – and we needed a calculator to get here – 226 yards.
Titans will lean on Henry
When the Titans have the ball, all eyes will be on Henry, who has alternated 100+ yard weeks with duds in between. The Ravens’ vaunted defense has been a little less vaunted this year, especially on the ground, giving up the same 4.5 yards per attempt as the Titans’ defense, and coming off a disastrous game on Sunday night against the Patriots, where they allowed Damien Harris to go for 121 yards on 22 carries.
Not exactly breaking news, but the Titans are going to live and die this week through Henry.
As for the passing attacks of each team, there are avenues to success – and A.J. Brown and Marquise Brown can both single-handedly break games open – but overall, expectations are not high. The Ravens are limiting opposing quarterbacks to 5.9 yards per attempt, good for second in the NFL. The Titans are a respectable 17th, at 6.8 yards per attempt.
In the end, this game feels like it’s going to come down to whichever team can control the ball. The over/under feels a little on the high side, especially if both teams manage to get their ground games going, chewing time off the clock.
One thing is for certain, however: The Titans’ playoff chances are hanging in the balance over the course of the next two weeks.