The Ravens expect to have nearly every defensive player available for their playoff rematch against the Tennessee Titans after missing their top two run-stuffing linemen in the regular-season loss to the Titans in November.
“We’re probably the healthiest we’ve been in a long time this season,” head coach John Harbaugh said after the team’s workout Jan. 8. “Guys are in a good place. Now we just need to go play.”
The fifth-seeded Ravens (11-5), winners of five straight to earn a wild-card berth, visit the AFC South champion and No. 4 seed Tennessee (11-5) at 1 p.m. Jan. 10 in a rematch of last year’s divisional round matchup, won by Tennessee, 28-12, in Baltimore.
The teams have met four times in the postseason, with the road team winning all four.
According to the team’s final injury report, cornerback Jimmy Smith was the only defensive player limited in practice on Friday, Jan. 8 and is questionable. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey (shoulder) missed one practice this week but practiced fully on Friday, and edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who missed the regular-season finale (thigh), also practiced fully on Friday.
Smith has dealt with a variety of injuries this year and has missed three games in a row and four of the past five. Asked about his availability for the Titans game, Harbaugh said, “We’ll just have to see. He practiced, which is a big plus. Like any injury, it kind of depends on how it feels and what his ability to play at the highest level is.”
Punter Sam Koch remains on the league’s reserve/COVID-19 list, so he is not listed on the injury report, but Harbaugh said he expects Koch to be available. Koch missed the regular-season finale at Cincinnati Jan. 3, snapping his franchise-record streak of 239 consecutive games.
Defensive linemen Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell both missed the Ravens’ 30-24, overtime loss to the Titans in November, and the importance of having both available to face 2,000-yard rusher Derrick Henry isn’t lost on Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale.
“I’m looking forward to the fact [we’re] going in there full strength,” Martindale said at his weekly news conference on Jan. 7, “without a doubt, and keeping guys fresh throughout the four quarters of play, or five quarters, however long it takes.”
Henry was stymied in the first half of that November game, with just 37 yards on 13 carries. But as he often does, Henry seemed to get stronger as the game wore on and he finished with 28 carries for 133 yards, including a game-winning 29-yard run in overtime.
In the Titans 28-12 playoff win against the Ravens last season, Henry ran 30 times for 195 yards.
“Let’s make no mistake about it,” Martindale said. “He’s the best running back in football. … We know it. He knows it.”
Campbell, recently named to the Pro Bowl for the sixth time, was acquired via trade by the Ravens in part to upgrade their run defense in the wake of their postseason loss to the Titans last year. Campbell, who hadn’t missed a game in the past five seasons, has missed four this year. He’s dealt with a calf injury and missed one game while on the league’s reserve/COVID-19 list.
Campbell, who faced Henry for three seasons as a divisional rival with the Jacksonville Jaguars, said Henry is “one of the best running backs to ever play this game, and he’s in the zone right now. … I take pride in the challenge of lining up and trying to shut him down.”
“I’m eager just to be playing still,” Campbell added. “A lot of guys are going home, going on vacation, or just watching football on their couch this week. It’s just a good feeling to be able to keep playing football.”
On offense, the Ravens hope to have center Patrick Mekari (back) and wide receiver Willie Snead (ankle) back after each missed the regular-season finale at Cincinnati. They returned to practice this week, though Snead was limited, and each is listed as questionable.
For the Titans, wide receiver A.J. Brown did not practice (knee/hand) the past two days but, according to ESPN, when asked about his availability for the game said, “as long as I have breath in my body I’m going to play.” Brown had four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens in November.
Here is the Ravens full, final injury report:
QUESTIONABLE: G Ben Bredeson (knee), T D.J. Fluker (knee), CB Marlon Humphrey (shoulder), C Patrick Mekari (back), DE Yannick Ngakoue (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (ribs/shoulder), WR Willie Snead (ankle)
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