The 10-7 and sixth-seeded Titans travel to Baltimore face the top-seeded 14-2 Ravens in a divisional-round clash.
This is the fourth Titans-Ravens matchup in playoff history with the Ravens holding a 2-1 advantage. The road team has won all three matchups, most recently a 2008 game in which the Ravens knocked off the 13-3 Titans in Nashville.
Two of 2019’s best quarterbacks, Lamar Jackson and Ryan Tannehill are two huge reasons why the Ravens and Titans had so much success. Jackson, the likely MVP of the NFL, had a tremendous year in which he threw 36 touchdowns and rushed for 1,200 yards. Tannehill only started the final 10 games of the regular season, but he led the NFL in passer rating, mixing both downfield shots and a high completion percentage at an absurd clip. Tannehill only attempted 15 passes last week, but he was able to complete eight of them in a conquest of the Patriots.
Running the Ball:
Historically speaking, the Titans hold an advantage. In the three previous matchups of the league’s leading rusher versus the league’s best rushing team, the leading rusher’s team went 3-0. The most recent example of this phenomenon was in last year’s playoffs when the Ezekiel Elliott-fueled Cowboys defeated the Seahawks. Derrick Henry, the NFL’s leading rusher, has been ridiculously unstoppable in recent weeks. Last week, Henry went for over 200 yards against the Patriots, a number that the Ravens cannot afford to give up Saturday night. Lamar Jackson, the banged-up Mark Ingram, and Gus Edwards should be effective for the Ravens, but Henry could systematically destroy the Ravens.
In the battle of the Browns, the Titans have the advantage with A.J., who surpassed the 1,000-yard mark. Baltimore’s Marquise had his moments including a two-touchdown Week 1, but he has not been unleashed similarly since Baltimore’s 59-10 rout of the Dolphins. Tight ends are the focal points of the Baltimore passing attack, and Mark Andrews will be key to the Ravens having success in the absence of Tennessee’s linebacker Jayon Brown. Both teams will likely be run-heavy, so the passing game will likely be headlined by efficiency rather than volume.
In the Trenches:
Tennessee has an undervalued offensive line with studs in Taylor Lewan and Rodger Saffold. While they have been inconsistent in pass protection, the run blocking has been second to Baltimore in recent weeks. Speaking of Baltimore, Baltimore’s line has been tremendous. Led by All-Pro Ronnie Stanley, the Ravens are versatile in both pass protection and run blocking. Nick Boyle and Pat Ricard act as sixth or seventh offensive linemen, giving the rushing attack endless power.
Defensively speaking, neither team has spectacular defensive fronts. Jurrell Casey, DaQuan Jones, and rookie Jeffery Simmons are good players, but the Titans can be exploited on the ground, and they often lack enough pressure to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable. The Ravens operate in a similar vein as they have talented defensive linemen such as Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams, but the run defense can be beaten. In terms of the pass rush, the Ravens rely heavily on Pro Bowler Matt Judon to get to the quarterback. If Judon is quiet, the Ravens generally do not have much of a pass rush.
The defensive strength of both teams, the Titans bring in a quartet of Kenny Vaccaro, Kevin Byard, Adoree’ Jackson, and Logan Ryan. Byard is among the best safeties in the NFL, and Ryan had a tremendous game against the Patriots including a pick-six to seal the win. Baltimore is loaded with All-Pros in Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey and Pro Bowler Earl Thomas. However, the true strength of the Baltimore secondary is the depth. Beyond the big three, the Ravens have the services of Chuck Clark, Jimmy Smith, and Brandon Carr to shut down the Tennessee passing attack.
In terms of pure talent, the Ravens blow the Titans out of the water. However, the Titans will likely keep it close through the shoulders of Derrick Henry. In a battle of former AFC Central rivals, I think the Ravens will prevail late and go to their first AFC Title Game since 2012.
Spread: Titans (+10)
Score: Ravens 31, Titans 27
Over/Under: Over 46.5