AFC Divisional Round Matchup:
Tennessee Titans (10-6) at Baltimore Ravens (14-2)
Saturday, January 11, 05:15 PM PST (CBS)
The Tennessee Titans rid of us of one dynasty, but can they wipe out a budding dynasty in the 2020 AFC Divisional Round? They travel to Baltimore to take on a Ravens squad that won twelve-straight games to end the season and did it without their QB for multiple fourth quarters and all of week seventeen. The Titans feel like the NFL version of Kyle Reese. They took out the cold, unfeeling Terminator, but will not survive to see the fruits of their labor as the Ravens likely wipe them off the map this week.
How the Baltimore Ravens Win
Important Player: Lamar Jackson
This one isn’t hard to see. The presumptive NFL MVP led the league with 43 touchdowns this season, and he did it while sitting in the fourth quarter of four games and all four quarters in week seventeen. He’s the engine that makes this franchise go, and is the key to the Ravens rolling all over the Titans this Saturday. There’s not much else to say here, the Ravens will go to the Super Bowl on the strength of Lamar Jackson’s arm and legs.
Important Position Group: Running Backs
Mark Ingram looks unlikely to suit up this weekend for the Ravens, which means they must lean on Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. Edwards and Hill formed a more-than-functional duo this season behind Mark Ingram. They combined for over 1,000 total yards on 186 touches this season. The Titans allowed unimpressive yards per carry and total yards stats to running backs. Both stats for the Titans ranked in the middle of the pack and could present an avenue for exploitation for the Ravens.
Important Statistic: Time of Possession
When the Ravens switched to Lamar Jackson last season, the time of possession was key. They ground the game to a halt, perfectly happy to let Lamar Jackson get six-yards at a time, chewing up the entire play clock in the process. With Lamar Jackson last season, the Ravens held the ball nearly 36 minutes per contest. When you have the ball that long, it’s hard for the other team to score (duh). This season, their big-play offense scaled that back a bit. This year, they ranked first in time of possession, shaving about two minutes off (34:32). The Ravens had the ball an extra 1:43, on average than the #2 team, Philadelphia. That’s about the difference between Philadelphia and the #6 team, Oakland (31:01 TOP).
How the Tennesee Titans Win
Important Player: Derrick Henry, Tractorcito, and Derrick Lamar Henry Jr.
The Titans decided to ride Derrick Henry until the wheels fell off. His 131 carries in the last five games were more than Damien Williams had all season. They punctuated his importance to their continued playoff viability by giving him 66 carries in the last two games combined. That is a patently absurd number, and I refuse to acknowledge it. He (and a well-timed pick-six) carried them to victory last weekend against the Patriots. Giving it to Henry 30+ times not only gives the Titans their best chance on offense, but it also keeps the potent Ravens offense off the field. He’s on an absolute roll, as well. Even if you don’t count his beastly 182 rushing yards last week, Derrick Henry’s second-half yards alone would rank as the fourteenth-most this season.
Important Position Group: Linebackers
Whether it’s Mark Andrews or one of the running backs (Mark Ingram isn’t likely to play), the Tennessee linebacker corps will need to step up in this one like they did last week. If you didn’t see the game, the Patriots had first-and-goal from the one and failed to score on three straight plays solely due to Rashaad Evans’ supreme effort at getting to the football and stopping up the New England running backs. The Ravens don’t have much to speak of at wide receiver, so the linebackers will come up big in any success they have on Saturday.
Important Statistic: Ryan Tannehill passing yards
The Titans took down New England last weekend with just fifteen pass attempts for 72 yards from their quarterback. Derrick Henry went supernova, so they didn’t need their intrepid quarterback to go full-on “Print the Shirts” mode on the Patriots. This week, however, I doubt the Titans will have that fortune. They will need Ryan Tannehill to throw the ball more than 30 times for just the fourth time in his eleven starts for Tennessee. It will definitely be an uphill battle for the Titans to take down this AFC Divisional Round matchup, but Ryan Tannehill (and A.J. Brown) can get them there.