Who: No. 6 seed Tennessee Titans (10-7) at No. 1 seed Baltimore Ravens (14-2)
Where: M&T Bank Stadium
When: Saturday, Jan. 11, 8:15 p.m. EST
The Ravens host their playoff opener Jan. 11 when the AFC’s top-seeded team welcomes the sixth-seeded Tennessee Titans to M&T Bank Stadium. The Titans, winners of eight of their last 11 games after a 2-4 start, reached the playoffs as the AFC’s second wild-card team and then advanced via a 20-13 win at New England Jan. 4.
Each day this week we will offer one key matchup and relevant statistics, leading up to a final prediction on the eve of the game.
Ravens TE Mark Andrews vs. Titans S Kevin Byard
Andrews has been quarterback Lamar Jackson’s favorite target all season, leading the Ravens with 64 catches for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns, the most in the league by a tight end this season and a single-season record for a Ravens tight end. At Cleveland in Week 16, the Browns hounded Andrews early in the game, but then within a span of 69 seconds late in the first half he scored a pair of touchdowns as the Ravens pulled away for a 31-15 win.
Andrews has been dealing with an ankle injury, and he is by far Jackson’s favorite third-down target; his 17 third-down conversions this year are nearly twice as many as anyone not named Lamar Jackson. (Jackson leads the team with 22. Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards each have 9).
The Titans surely know this and will make defending Andrews a key part of their game plan. But Andrews has proved to be a matchup problem, and opposing tight ends totaled 916 yards against the Titans this year, the seventh-highest total in the league, with nine touchdowns. Andrews, Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle all could be factors.
In zone coverage, and on shorter throws, the Titans might wind up with a bigger linebacker on Andrews. But top coverage linebacker Jayon Brown is out with a shoulder injury, so they could also move Byard closer to the line of scrimmage. He is a big hitter who leads the Titans with five interceptions, but at 5-foot-11 and 212 pounds, he’s giving up a lot of size to Andrews (6-4, 256).
This story has been updated since its original publication to reflect Jayon Brown’s status.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox