Dynasty-Fantasy Analysis: 2020 Season AFC Wild Card – Ravens 20, Titans 13
*Just like our in-regular-season coverage, we’ll be analyzing all of the playoff games for Dynasty/Fantasy purposes…with an eye on 2021 valuation changes, etc. During this time, I’m watching the tape and writing up an analysis on NFL Draft prospect scouting studies and prepping/studying for the Senior Bowl (still on for now) – so, I’m typing out my thoughts/notes quickly and not hardcore editing. Forgive any typos/grammar, etc.
It was bound to happen…the Ravens were bound to beat the Titans if they played them enough times. It’s not like the Titans are a dominant team, but they’ve had the Ravens’ number…and Baltimore exercised those demons here. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but Baltimore outplayed the Titans and earned the win.
Tennessee actually jumped out to a 10-0 lead, and I was like…serious changes are coming to the Baltimore Ravens roster/staff in 2021 with this loss – but then the Ravens fought back in and shut down the Titans offense the rest of the way. If the Ravens go out and defeat the Buffalo Bills…then I’ll be impressed. Beating the Titans is good, but there is a lot more work to do to make me believe in the Ravens going forward. This 2020 Ravens team is half the team the 2019 Ravens was (and that 2019 team was as good a team for a half of a season that I have ever seen).
If the Ravens do get thumped by the Bills…then it means this Baltimore team is not a team of the future, as currently constructed. They had to stumble their way to the playoffs with a schedule break down the stretch and beating Tennessee doesn’t prove a lot. The Ravens future direction is hinging on their Bills game…and I just don’t believe the Ravens are good enough anymore to get that job done.
Tennessee is that team no one wants to play…they can beat anyone on any given Sunday – but no one ever sees them as Super Bowl threats (even though they got close to it last season). If they can fix their defensive issues, then they are a real 2021 contender. But consider that this is the organization who had the 2020 mindset of spending big money to sign Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley as their big ‘fix’ for their defense/pass rush. I would have said (in preseason 2020) that the teams that sign either Clowney or Beasley are ones that will show their hand – that they have a disastrous front office/GM/personnel group. Tennessee signed both of them. You can’t be that stupid on personnel and expect to be a Super Bowl level team.
If the Titans repeat their terrible personnel decisions of 2020 in 2021…then this Titans team is going to slip away, forgotten as a generically good team for a stretch and then be a disappointment where questions about Mike Vrabel will arise…especially if O-C Arthur Smith leaves and then the team posts a 5-6 win season in 2021 without him – then the Vrabel heat is coming.
In Vrabel’s only season as a D-C for Houston, his defense finished #32 in PPG allowed.
In Vrabel’s three seasons as HC of Tennessee, his defense’s PPG allowed rank has gone from #3 to #12 to #24 this season – this defense is getting worse, and Vrabel is supposed to be a defensive-minded coach. Do we expect him to ‘fix’ this for 2021? Are we that confident?
Tennessee, like Baltimore, is ‘good’ – but they are at a crossroads of going ‘good’ or breaking bad depending upon coaching and personnel moves in 2021. There’s hope…there’s concern.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- I wasn’t really paying attention to the stats in this game when/right after it was played. But in the days after the game I heard some various media takes on the performance of Lamar Jackson (17-24 for 179 yards, 0 TD/1 INT, 16-136-1) – basically that he was a god and everything is now fixed/righted and marching forward with Lamar getting his first playoff win. With that in mind, when I was re-watching this game, taking notes for this report – I was surprised to see he only had 179 yards passing and no TD passes. I remembered it being better…and I heard an incessant praise about Lamar all week. I just assumed it was a monster stat game. It was a great running game (pushed by one big run) but a pretty poor passing effort against a really bad pass defense. I’m not sure I’m ready to buy ‘Lamar is fixed’.
Why bother mentioning this…why am I pouring cold water on it? For the fantasy perceptions, and the study thereof. If I’m right, that this Lamar talk is inflated – then this is a great time to sell off Lamar and use him + ____ to get into another QB of your choosing. The hype train is cranking back up on Lamar…and you don’t want to lose that window if he gets squashed by the Bills this weekend.
Look at these fantasy numbers/trends on Lamar…
-Under 200 yards passing in 12 of his last 14 games. He averaged 183.8 yards passing per game this season. He ran for 100+ yards in a game only 3 times this season…one of them this playoff game.
-Just looking at the regular season games – Lamar has been under 250 yards passing in a game in 26 of his last 27 games. A pattern is settling in where Lamar pops against weaker opponents/defenses and then is very average against good+ opponents.
I mean to convey/consider all this from a trying to see him as a top 1-2-3 fantasy QB/god perspective. It’s just not there. It’s been drizzling down since the middle of 2019 season and really melted further in the 2020 season. If Lamar Jackson is going to ‘get paid’ this offseason (entering year four of his rookie 4-year deal) – do we think he rises from here or continues to slowly fade off to ‘good’ not/never ‘great’?
I very much fear ‘highly paid’ Lamar Jackson for FF output ahead. You chop down his running tallies 10-20% in 2021-2022, etc. …and you got nothing much here for fantasy (not hoping for an elite level it looked like he was headed towards after 2019). He’s not improving as a passer/he’s getting figured out. His rushing numbers are down a bit. I think it’s fair to worry that he’s heading towards a Cam Newton fantasy existence – a back-end QB1 capable of sweet weeks with nice rushing totals, but not the ‘wow’ guys of their one off-the-charts season.
The passing numbers are so weak…I think you avoid/sell off Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown if there are believers out there. Not that they’re bad – just not going to another level. Brown has been really solid the 2nd-half of the season…7 TDs his last 7 games – there will be ‘buyers’, I think. You look to trade up not dump.
I love Devin Duvernay, but you are not going to want to invest in the Ravens passing game for fantasy with Lamar at QB (and lesser Lamar clones as backups).
-- Baltimore smartly threw everything at Derrick Henry (18-40-0, 3-11-0/3) everything they could, and it worked/they executed…bottled him up. Many teams try, rare teams do…kudos to the Ravens for doing so.
Tennessee threw their best two players at the Ravens time and time again, as they should. The Titans ran the ball 22 times and threw 26 passes…48 ‘plays’ – and between Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown (6-83-1/10) the two were in on 31 of those 48 plays (64.5% of the touch attempts in this game to these two players).
Two thoughts come to mind about this game plan (which was smart)…
1) A.J. Brown is getting past ‘solid-not-great WR who is a menace to tackle after the catch’…to ‘really good WR starting to win against good coverage AND is a menace to tackle after the catch’.
Thinking of the Ole Miss top WR prospects from a year ago – D.K. Metcalf is getting exposed and pushed into a style (short, interior game) he isn’t good at…he’s fading, while A.J. Brown is ascending, overcoming his struggles facing tough coverage (getting shutdown) at times in 2019…now he’s just a playmaker who is ‘winning’ against top coverage. AJB fought and overall beat Marlon Humphrey in this game – 2019 A.J. Brown would’ve been shut out by Humphrey.
2) Tennessee continues to show no confidence in all their other options, especially Corey Davis (0-0-0/2) and Jonnu Smith (2-9-0/3).
Davis got hurt but still played 63% of the game but was out of the action late…and for the game = no catches. Davis is a fraud WR that some dopey team is going to pay good money for him because Davis was a high draft pick once and had 2-3 big stat lines for Tennessee in 2020 as teams focused on Henry-Brown. Davis didn’t have a chance against Jimmy Smith or Marcus Peters when they picked him up in coverage.
Jonnu Smith was strong early in the 2020 season, after flashing signs of goodness in the 2019 season…but he ended the 2020 season on a terrible note. Stiffed by the offense for a third-straight season despite playing a lot of snaps. Corey Davis is going to be a hoax/disaster in 2021 free agency…Jonnu Smith is going to be coveted, and his FF valuation is set to pop if he lands in the right place. There’s no way he’s staying in Tennessee unless they try and franchise tag him, which would make no sense…because they aren’t interested in him/they somehow like Anthony Firkser and Geoff Swaim better.
Where will Jonnu go? We’ll dive deeper into such things in March 2021 when free agency is about to be unleashed, but my early bets would be…
New England (if the market isn’t overheated on Jonnu/they can swipe him)
-- I don’t know why this thought struck me to look at, but…
In their last 7 games (each with a playoff appearance and fully needing Week 17 games):
10.98 non-PPR/15.59 PPR PPG on 33 rec., 447 yards, 6 TDs = Marquise Brown
10.24 non-PPR/15.96 PPR PPG on 40 rec. 537 yards, 3 TDs = D.K. Metcalf
What’s more surprising…Marquise that good or Metcalf down to that level?
For more comparison:
13.09 non-PPR/18.80 PPR PPG on 40 rec., 616 yards, 5 TDs (not counting his onside kick return TD) = A.J. Brown.
In raw non-PPR points total this season, Marquise was #32 among all WRs, Metcalf #5, A.J. Brown #9.
From Week 11 on (no playoffs), raw non-PPR points: Marquise was #14, A.J. Brown #3…Metcalf #27.
Timing is everything. People were dropping Marquise Brown halfway into the season and Metcalf was lifting teams to 1st-place in their division…then it reversed.
You know who was in the top 10 from Week 11 on among WRs in non-PPR total points? #7 Marvin Jones, #9 T.Y. Hilton…talk about ‘timing’ and players getting cut early…
-- Major playoff game, must win, bring your best weapons…
We already discussed how much Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown were utilized. Here’s the rushing attempt tally for the Ravens in this critical game:
16 carries = Lamar Jackson
09 = J.K. Dobbins
08 = Gus Edwards
Carries in each game since the Ravens six game win streak…
11-13-14-11-13-09 = Dobbins (11.8 per game)
07-07-09-15-12-08 = Edwards (9.7 per game)
13-09-10-13-11-16 = Lamar (10.3 per game)
What’s the case again for Dobbins as an RB1 for FF 2021? How can you be an elite/RB1 with 11+ carries a game?
Dobbins’ catches in a game during the 6-game win streak: 0-0-1-0-0-1…enjoy that for PPR!
-- The Ravens defense has now held six of their last 7 opponents to less than 20 points in a game…the exception was Week 14 vs. the Browns.
However, before we get too excited, the teams they held down prior to Tennessee were QB’d by falling apart Big Ben in the rain on a Wednesday, Andy Dalton, Mike Glennon, Daniel Jones, Brandon Allen.
Is the Ravens defense coming together at just the right time? Possibly. When Baltimore has CB Jimmy Smith, their whole world changes on defense…and he hasn’t been 100%/been jumping in and out of games and missing some games all 2nd-half of the season. Smith played only 41% of the snaps in this game.
You know how good Smith is – Tennessee didn’t even try a pass attempt against him when he was in.
Holding the Titans offense down like they did is impressive, but a much tougher task with the NFL’s top offense at Buffalo this week.
I feel like this is Baltimore’s last stand season, as a defense, for fantasy – it’s an older/veteran group and might be losing its highly respected defensive coordinator to him becoming a head coach. Next season, and into the future, the Bengals and Browns offense won’t be the joke they’ve been for the past decade. The easy matchups with them will be fading away as the Ravens defense ages out/needs revamped.
-- Speaking of coaching changes…
As soon as new coaches land, and we get past the NFL playoffs…I’ll be doing my usual new head coach analysis/report on each new hire, and their impact on the fantasy surroundings of their new employ. I’m not going to get caught up in the rumors of who is going where at this stage…I’ll wait until it’s real and then start to study.
Are there any coaching candidates I think would be great/the top one of the bunch? Not sure really – I’m intrigued by Arthur Smith (O-C TENN) and curious about how Urban Meyer might do, but I don’t have ‘a guy’ this year like I did with Matt Rhule last season.
The one problem head coaching hire I see, actually two – (1) I think Eric Bieniemy is a fraud, like all the other recently failed Andy Reid coaching tree people…only Bieniemy is the worst of the bunch, I think. The recent Reid tree: Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy. Being around Patrick Mahomes’s existence is not a resume enhancer, no more than being around Belichick or Brady helped any of his assistants who were elevated to head coaching spots.
You know how many Belichick coaching tree coaches are still alive in the playoffs (final 8 teams)? None.
Ditto for Andy Reid’s tree…zero.
Snap Counts of Interest:
34 = Jonnu
29 = Swaim
15 = Pruitt
12 = Firkser
33 = Dobbins
29 = G. Edwards
05 = J. Hill
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