Nov 2, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) runs off of the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half of the game at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 43-23. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Baltimore Ravens fans are, somewhat understandably, panicking. After all, their beloved birds went from first to worst in a mere two weeks, culminating with a blowout loss to the Steelers last week in Pittsburgh. What not too long ago looked like a Super Bowl contender suddenly looks like the third or fourth best team in their own division.
The secondary is in deep trouble, we’ll give you that. The defensive backfield was already sub par with Jimmy Smith on the field, and now he is going to be absent for a least a couple more weeks. Without him, a shallow and weak unit was absolutely embarrassed against the Steelers and is unlikely to get much better going forward.
The Baltimore Ravens come home in week ten to face the ailing Tennessee Titans, who are 2-6 and seem to be in full blown rebuilding mode yet again. Former first round pick Jack Lockler has been benched in favor of this year’s sixth round quarterback selection, Zach Mettenberger. In extensive action last week, the selfie king completed 27 of 41 passes for 299 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception in a 30-16 loss to the Houston Texans.
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It wasn’t a bad showing by any means against a tough Texans defense, so the Ravens obviously have to take the Titans seriously. The Titans have struggled on offense to date, however, currently ranking bottom ten in the NFL. They have struggled in pass protection and run blocking, leading to bottom of the barrel rankings in passing offense (24th) and rushing offense (20th).
On the defensive side of things, the Titans do best the Ravens in one category: pass defense. The Ravens have slid down to 24th in the NFL following last week’s debacle, while the Titans are a middle of the pack 16th. The Titans have had a hard time stopping opposing rushers, however, and currently rank 27th in run defense while giving up 134.8 yards per game.
The Ravens would be obviously well served to bring the heat on Mettenberger this week and force him out of the pocket. Rookie quarterbacks typically struggle when they are under pressure and forced to read complex blitz schemes. The Titans have struggled to move the ball on the ground, and the Ravens are one of the very best in the NFL at stopping the run, allowing a mere 86.4 yards per game.
On the offensive side of things, the Ravens need to pound the rock on the ground. The Titans can’t stop the run but do a good job against the pass. Instead of quick three and outs or risking turnovers from the increasingly error prone Joe Flacco, the Ravens can simply saddle up Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro and ride them to victory.
This is a very winnable game for the Baltimore Ravens, a team that faces a brutal three game stretch afterwards (@ Saints, vs. Chargers, @ Dolphins). In fact, the Ravens only face two teams the rest of the season that currently have a losing record (Texans, Jaguars). If the team wants to keeps pace with the rest of the ultra competitive AFC North, these are the types of games they absolutely must win.