The Baltimore Ravens get their shot to avenge last season’s embarrassing postseason loss at the hands of the Tennessee Titans this weekend. Here are their keys to victory and the best sportsbooks to use this Sunday.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Tennessee Titans
Sunday, January 10, 2021 – 01:05 PM EDT at Nissan Stadium
Baltimore entered the Divisional Round last season with high hopes, an MVP quarterback, and a brolic defense. What it left the Divisional Round with was a bitter taste of reality, and questions going forward about their ability to win playoff games in the Jackson era. Despite the Ravens’ hot play of late, vaulting them into a playoff spot, they still opened as just a 3.5-point favorite due to last year’s loss to Mike Vrabel and the Titans. The NFL odds now favor the Ravens by a shorter three points, but what will it take for Baltimore to win? Here are their keys to victory.
Lamar Jackson Snaps Out of His Playoff Funk
For as good as Lamar Jackson is as a quarterback, the number of different ways he can beat you, and his record on primetime, it is stunning that he’s failed to win a playoff game in two tries. The pressure will surely be squarely on his shoulders entering Sunday’s game against the Titans, as an 0-3 start to the 2019 MVP’s career would mean a trend is developing, that he can’t rise to the occasion when it means the most.
In two playoff games, against the Chargers and Titans, Jackson has completed just 51.1% of his passes for 559 yards (an average of 279.5 per game), three touchdowns, and three interceptions. He’s also been sacked 11 times (yes, you read that right) and lost two fumbles. It’s safe to say that five turnovers in two games are not how you win playoff games, and you never expect to see your mobile quarterback sacked 11 times in two games when you consider how he can move outside the pocket.
So, while it is a simple key to victory, Jackson simply has to be better than he has been in the postseason. That means he can’t turn the ball over, and he can’t take sacks like this. Even without a huge game yardage-wise, if he can just manage the game and break off a few big runs, that should be enough to get the Ravens in position to win.
Stop Derrick Henry
OK, so this is much easier said than done, and it’s especially difficult when you consider that his rushing total at the best betting sites is set at a ridiculous 120.5. He rushed for 195 yards in Tennessee’s 28-12 playoff win over Baltimore last season and was the single biggest threat to Baltimore’s defense.
How do the Ravens combat that this time around? Well, for starters, they have a new inside linebacker in Patrick Queen, who has struggled at stopping the run this year and will need to play more like he has been in recent weeks to be an impact run stuffer. They’ll also need good games out of linebacker L.J. Fort (79.7), and interior defender Derek Wolfe (84.4), who all rate highly in rushing defense according to Pro Football Focus, ranking in the top five at their positions.
They’re certainly well-staffed to slow down Henry, and they have dominated against the run this season to the tune of just 108.8 yards per game, eighth in football. Time will tell whether or not the necessary improvements to the front seven were truly made on Sunday.
Give the Ball to J.K. Dobbins
In games where Dobbins rushed for over 70 yards this season, the Ravens are 3-1. When Dobbins plays over half of the snaps, they are 4-2. The rookie out of Ohio State has been an impact player for the Ravens all year-round, and he's one of the clearest improvements Baltimore has made from their failed 2019-20 season to the 2020-21 campaign.
Upgrading from Ingram to Dobbins has led Baltimore to the top rushing offense in the league, ranking first in yards per rush (5.5), rushes per game (34.7), and rushing yards per game (191.1). While this is due in part to the legs of Lamar Jackson, the threat of Dobbins has completely opened up this offense.
Defenses can no longer afford to gamble that Jackson is going to be keeping the ball off the read-option now that Dobbins has emerged as a serious threat at running back. He has added another layer to the Ravens’ plan of attack that has opened things up for Lamar Jackson as a runner, as evidenced by his 73.2 yards per game since Dobbins became the featured back in Week 8. Prior to that point, he’d averaged just 57.7 yards on the ground.
It’s abundantly clear that the Ravens are at the peak of their powers when they are pounding the rock, and as long as they give Dobbins 15 or more carries, they will open the door for a game-breaking run from Jackson. The two are their two best players on offense, and they both need to be utilized to the fullest.
If you trust Baltimore enough to make a bet for this game, Bovada has the Ravens at -3 (-125).