The Baltimore Ravens’ opponent for the AFC divisional round is set. By virtue of their 20-13 win against the New England Patriots in the wild card round, the Tennessee Titans earned a trip to Baltimore.
Bo Smolka breaks down each team’s strengths heading into the Jan. 11 playoff matchup:
Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Tennessee Titans
Where: M&T Bank Stadium
When: Saturday, Jan. 11, 8:15 p.m. EST
Why the Ravens should win: The Titans haven’t yet seen Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ record-setting offense, and as other teams have learned, it’s virtually impossible to simulate Jackson in practice. Current Titans and former Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees got only a brief look last year at Jackson, who was still a backup when the Ravens went to Tennessee and overwhelmed the Titans, 21-0.
Tennessee’s defense has been middle of the pack, ranking 21st overall and 12th against the run. The Ravens and their three-headed run game of Jackson, Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards could wear down the Titans’ defensive front.
The Ravens have the No. 5-ranked run defense in the league, and if they can get the Titans into obvious passing situations, their successful play-action passing game is rendered less effective, and that plays to the strength of the Ravens’ standout secondary.
The Ravens would appear to have a decided edge in the kicking game with Justin Tucker. The Titans have missed two extra-point kicks and have gone 8-for-18 on field-goal tries. They are on their fourth kicker in Greg Joseph, who was signed off the Carolina Panthers practice squad last month.
Why the Ravens could lose: Ryan Tannehill’s revival in Tennessee has been one of the stories of the season. The veteran quarterback threw 22 touchdowns and five interceptions in 10 regular-season starts after replacing Marcus Mariota, leading the Titans to a 7-3 record after a 2-4 start. The Titans averaged 30.4 points in Tannehill’s starts. The Titans are playing with confidence and swagger, and if they are coming to Baltimore it means they have already gone to New England and slayed Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Titans running back Derrick Henry won the NFL rushing title with 1,540 rushing yards, and his perimeter run game could be a handful against a Ravens team that has occasionally struggled to set the edge. Rookie wide receiver A. J. Brown has become a game-changer, with 100-plus yards in four of his past six games. Safety Kevin Byard (five interceptions) and slot cornerback Logan Ryan (four interceptions) can be disruptive to Jackson and the Ravens passing game.
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