The NFL Playoffs roll on as Sunday’s triple header will kick off with the Baltimore Ravens taking on the Tennessee Titans in the wild card round.
These two teams know each other well as last year in the divisional playoff round, the sixth-seeded Titans went into Baltimore and knocked off the top-seeded Ravens 28-12.
Titans running back Derrick Henry led the way with 195 yards rushing and a passing touchdown. Back on Nov. 22, 2020, the Titans rallied from a 21-10 third-quarter deficit at Baltimore, before rallying to force overtime. In overtime, Henry ran for a 29-yard touchdown, giving the Titans a 30-24 win.
This will be the fifth time these franchises square off in the postseason as the Ravens defeated the Titans in 2000 and 2008 at Nashville, while the Titans won at Baltimore in 2003 and 2019. With the 2-2 deadlock being broken on Sunday, will the road team make it 5-0 in this postseason rivalry?
On Dec. 2, 2020, the Ravens lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 19-14 on a Wednesday evening, dropping their record to 6-5 as quarterback Lamar Jackson missed the game due to a positive COVID-19 test. Jackson returned with a vengeance as the Ravens won their last five games to reach the playoffs for a third-straight season, including a thrilling 47-42 win at the Cleveland Browns in Week 14.
The Ravens clearly emphasize their running game as they were the top rushing offense for the second-straight season. However, they were last in the NFL in passing offense as Jackson passed for more than 200 yards only five times this season.
Rookie running back J.K. Dobbins and 2019 stud Gus Edwards rushed for 805 and 723 yards on top of Jackson’s 1005 yards on the ground. Their game plan is always clear; figuring out how to stop it is much more foggy.
The Ravens battled different injuries and COVID-19 outbreaks on defense. Despite this, the Ravens finished in the top 10 in total, passing and rushing defense. However, the Ravens are still banged up as cornerback Marlon Humphrey, defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell and defensive tackle Brandon Williams have been either limited in practice or missed it altogether. First-round draft pick in linebacker Patrick Queen will have to step up if some of their starters end up missing the game. Queen finished as the team’s leading tackler with an interception and two fumble recoveries on the season. While their defense has been better down the stretch, they have to face Henry, a player who has torched them the past two matchups.
The Titans enter this postseason 11-5 and as the AFC South champions for the first time since 2008. They look to ride Henry to a second-straight AFC Championship game appearance as this season, he has looked as great as ever, topping his incredible 2019 season. Henry became the eighth running back to top 2,000 yards rushing in a season, the first one to do so since Adrian Peterson back in 2012. Henry rushed for 2,027 yards, ranking fifth all-time. To give Henry support is QB Ryan Tannehill and wide receiver A.J. Brown. Combined with Henry, these two form one of the NFL’s most explosive trios. Tannehill enjoyed a career year after he was given a new contract this offseason with 40 total touchdowns, seven interceptions and 4,085 total yards. Brown caught 70 passes in 14 games for 1,075 yards and 11 touchdowns. Together, these three players carried the Titans’ offense to the third-ranked unit in total yards in the NFL.
The problem for the Titans this season has been on the defensive side of the ball. They rank 28th in total defense, 29th in pass defense, last in third-down opponent conversion rate and 30th in sacks. Their lack of pass rush allows pass-heavy offenses to tear them apart, forcing the offense into many shootouts throughout the season, including a thrilling 41-38 win at Houston in Week 17 to clinch the AFC South title. Luckily for the Titans, the Ravens are a run-heavy team, ranking 18th in run defense.
This is the must-watch game of the wild card weekend as it provides many different storylines such as Henry vs. the rushing champions of the NFL, a revenge plot by the Ravens and a chance for Lamar Jackson to win his first playoff game. With the Ravens banged up on defense and the Titans’ lackluster effectiveness on that side of the ball, it will be a shootout.
The game will come down to who can control the clock and make more plays through the air. While the Titans’ trio is great, the Ravens’ running game will be able to keep them on the sidelines and force the Titans to play catch-up throughout the game. It will be close, but the Ravens will prevail to get their revenge from last year.
Prediction: Ravens 37 – Titans 35