News & Notes: One Huge Ravens Advantage in Divisional Playoffs

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When breaking down the matchups for Saturday night's divisional playoff game, there's one clear advantage in the Ravens' ledger.

In what might be the NFL's most difficult venue to kick in, the Ravens have the league's best kicker and the Titans have a kicker who hasn't attempted a field goal this season.

Justin Tucker is a first-team All Pro who is 28-of-29. While it's the fewest field goals he's made in his career thanks to a prolific offense, particularly in the red zone, his 96.6 percent success rate is the second-highest mark of his career.

On the other end, Titans second-year kicker Greg Joseph hasn't made a field goal this season. With Ryan Succop struggling, the Titans placed him on injured reserve and signed Joseph in mid-December. In two games, Joseph hasn't had a field-goal attempt (he is 9-for-9 on extra points).

"As a kicker … we want everybody to do well. Not necessarily when we play directly against each other," Tucker said.

"It's important to recognize that we are going to be playing at home in the Mid-Atlantic and doing what we can to make the ball go through the uprights. In Maryland, it's different than in Dallas, Texas. It is what it is. We kind of live for it. It makes it interesting, makes it fun."

The fact that the game is in Baltimore adds another layer to the kicking disparity.

Since 2016, Tucker has made 69 of 74 field-goal attempts at M&T Bank Stadium. That's a success rate of 93.2 percent. Opponents during that same time frame have hit just 72 percent of their kicks.

The difference from 50 or more yards is even more staggering. Tucker is 14-of-17 from 50-plus (82.4 percent) while opponents are 1-for-7, including the playoffs. Chargers kicker Michael Badgley hit a 53-yarder in the wild-card round last year at M&T Bank Stadium.

"Justin has kicked very well here," Assistant Special Teams Coach Randy Brown said. "It's hard for opponents. Opponent kickers come in, and their heads are spinning in pregame, so it's good for us. You don't see many 50-yarders."

It's become even harder to kick in M&T Bank Stadium since the start of last season, when the Ravens installed huge corner video boards. That changed the wind patterns, making the direction the ball will go more unpredictable.

The last time Joseph attempted a field goal in a regular-season game was in … Baltimore. On Dec. 30, 2018, in the regular-season finale between the Ravens and Browns, Joseph missed a 46-yard field goal wide left at the end of the first half. He followed it up with a successful 35-yarder in the third quarter.

It will be interesting to see how the Titans approach the kicking game in Saturday's contest.

"There are some things you can plan for, and there are some things you can't. And when you kick at our stadium, which is the hardest stadium in the National Football League to kick in by far now …" Brown said. "How about opponents trying 50-yarders in our place? They don't do it much anymore."

Ronnie Stanley Wins a Very Meaningful Award

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley was named a Pro Bowler and first-team All Pro for the first time of his career, but another award announced this week hit home.

Stanley was named the Polynesian Pro Football 2019 Player of the Year.

The award started in 2015 and has previously gone to Seahawks guard Mike Iupati (2015), Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (2016) and Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (2017, 2018).

"I'm proud of my Polynesian heritage," Stanley said. "A lot of people don't even know that I'm Polynesian. Any time that I'm able to share my culture, I'm always happy and proud."

Stanley's mother grew up in Tonga before immigrating to the United States, where Stanley was born. Stanley said he looked up to other Polynesian football players such as former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, and he still keeps tabs on others in the league.

Stanley didn't give up a single sack this season and was an instrumental part of the Ravens' record-breaking rushing unit. He was the NFL's highest-graded left tackle and highest-graded pass blocker of any offensive lineman by Pro Football Focus.

In his fourth season, Stanley has been working toward becoming an elite player in the NFL, and he reached that level this season.

"I'm happy with the way I've played so far, but if we don't finish it out, I'll be just as mad as if I gave up 10 sacks," he said. "It's all about the end product, and I'm staying focused on that."

Longtime Bengal Says Joining Ravens Is 'Mind-Blowing'

The Ravens signed 11-year NFL left tackle Andre Smith this week, adding a former first-round pick and familiar talent to their offensive line. Smith spent 10 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Baltimore is set on the offensive line, but Smith offers excellent depth just in case and is a good player to have on the scout team.

"It's surreal. I was at home doing the family thing. Just to get the opportunity to come here, play for a really good team, a great organization with a chance to win a championship. Why not?" Smith said.

"To come here is mind-blowing. You rarely ever hear of anything like this ever happening."

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