NASHVILLE, Tenn. –Fresh off a bye week, the Titans take their 2-6 record into Baltimore for a week 10 matchup with the 5-4 Ravens. Baltimore enters the game losers of two straight after back-to-back divisional losses.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and wide receiver Steve Smith held conference calls Wednesday with Titans media. These are the top five things you need to know about Baltimore.
- Steve Smith Revitalized with Ravens**
After spending his first 13 seasons as a Carolina Panther, Smith has found a new home in Baltimore. Smith's 711 receiving yards leave him just 34 yards shy of his entire 2013 output of 745 yards. Smith also has four receiving touchdowns and a long reception of 80 yards.
"Each year is a different situation with different opportunities or lack there of," said Smith. "Ball is ball. You know, you always try to improve each year and that's my goal. That's what the offseason is for, to self-evaluate and to look at what you can do better. That's what I'm trying to do even at my old age."
Harbaugh said Smith has been better than he ever could have expected.
"I had high hopes for him and he's exceeded those hopes. Beyond that he's a great friend and a great leader for our guys and just really a great asset for us," said Harbaugh.
4. AFC North – The Best Division in Football
Every year national pundits debate which division is the NFL's best. Through nine weeks of the 2014 season, there really is no disputing the AFC North wears that crown. At 5-4, the Ravens find themselves in last place in the division as every AFC North team is over .500.
Titans Online looks back at moments from the fierce rivalry between the Titans and Ravens since the series began in 1996. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP, Getty)
The Bengals lead the division at 5-2-1 (yes they tied a game in Week 5 against the Panthers), followed by the Steelers at 6-3 and the Browns at 5-3. Harbaugh said the success of the division has the Ravens feeling the pressure to keep up week in and week out.
"It does," he began. "I don't know if it's just because of the division. We feel that all the time and I know every team in the league does. But man, you really can't afford to stumble in our division race. Every game has been really important for us. We've lost three out of the last four road games to really good teams but that was disappointing for us."
3. Susceptible Secondary
Despite having the NFL's 12th-ranked defense, the Ravens pass defense ranks just 26th. Baltimore is allowing 263.2 yards through the air through nine games. Most recently, Ben Roethlisberger torched the Ravens secondary for 340 yards and six touchdowns to five different receivers.
In response to the poor performance, the Ravens parted ways with corners Chykie Brown and starter Dominique Franks. Free agent Danny Gorrer and promoted practice squad player Tramain Jacobs will compete to start opposite Ladarius Webb.
"We've just given up too many big plays back there," Harbaugh said. "I'm sure the Titans are looking at that and hoping they can take advantage of it."
2. Home Field Advantage
The Ravens own a 3-1 home record at M&T Bank Stadium, outscoring opponents 109-46 in the process. Baltimore has been dominant at home since 2008 with a 42-10 in that span. The last time the Ravens lost more than two games at home in a single season was 2007 when they went 4-4.
"I'm not sure what the biggest factor is. We've had good teams so that really helps obviously, but also the fact that it's a good place to play," Harbaugh said. "Our players are comfortable here. There's hardly ever an empty seat. By the time the game starts the place will be full and it will be loud. Baltimore is a great football city. We feel like we have the best fans in football."
Smith also touched on the passionate fans of his new team.
"It's a great atmosphere," he said. "It's a playoff atmosphere every game. If you're playing well they're cheering, and if you're not they're going to boo you. You know very quickly what kind of crowd it's going to be and what they expect from the Baltimore Ravens. That's the expectation we have going in and that's the only way we want to play to keep the crowd in it."
1. The Emergence of Justin Forsett
Justin Forsett isn't new to the league, but he's making a name for himself this season as the Ravens' primary back. Forsett is fifth in the league with 622 yards rushing and has only had more than 15 carries in a game twice. He has also run for three touchdowns while adding 31 receptions for 202 yards.
Forsett's best season came in 2009 with the Seahawks when he rushed for a career-high 619 yards and four touchdowns. The seven-year pro began his first four seasons in Seattle before spending a year each in Houston and Jacksonville. Harbaugh put him in the same category as Smith as far as exceeding expectations.
"He's been very important," Harbaugh said. "I don't think we could have anticipated how well he's done. He's done a great job. He's as fine a person as I've ever met in my life. He deserves this kind of success. He's just a really good football player and he always has been. I think he's been really underrated throughout his career."