The RSR Staff chimes in with their Divisional Playoff Bold Predictions for Saturday night’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans.
Back during Week 16, Lamar Jackson was all the rage. Turn on any sports network, follow the major NFL Twitter handles or read league-related push notifications and you were bound to see stories linked to Lamar. Now here we are, 3 weeks later preparing for the Divisional Round and the narrative has changed.
The Chiefs are on fire and their defense is now a force.
Watch out for the Vikings!
Derrick Henry and the Titans can’t be stopped.
The media is imprisoned by the moment – infected by recency bias. And since the Ravens have been on cruise control after locking up the No. 1 seed on December 22, they’ve fallen out of the limelight and somehow that has weakened how they are perceived on the national landscape. All that the Ravens have achieved during the 2019 season has seemingly been kicked to the curb in favor of the flavor of the week.
That’s all about to change – again.
There’s no denying that Derrick Henry has been on fire and he is THE catalyst for the Titans who are (7-0) in 2019 when Henry rushes for 100+ yards. He enables play action and helps keep the league’s 21st defense off the field. But Saturday marks the Titans third consecutive road game and that’s wear and tear that can’t be ignored. Moreover, Henry is 3 weeks removed from a hamstring injury that forced him to sit out during Week 16. And let’s not forget he has toted the rock 66 times during the past two weeks.
As for the Ravens, history is in their favor. Since 2009 (10 seasons) the home team record in Divisional Games is 31-9 (.775). After a bye under John Harbaugh, the Ravens are (11-2). And then there’s this…
So, without further ado, let’s get bold…
- The Ravens will hold Derrick Henry under 100 yards. Both Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson will outrush the Titans behemoth tailback.
- The Titans are (1-2) when Ryan Tannehill throws 30+ times. He’ll attempt 30+ on Saturday night.
- Tennessee ranks 26th in passing yards allowed to tight ends. Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle will combine for 150 receiving yards.
- Dean Pees will invest heavy resources to stop the Ravens running game and that means Marquise Brown will get one-on-one opportunities. A less than 100% Adoree Jackson (or his replacement) will be targeted. The Ravens rookie receiver will score from 40+ yards out.
- Last season the Ravens sacked Titans QB Marcus Mariota 11 times. The 2019 Titans offensive front continues to struggle in pass pro. Look for the Ravens to drop Ryan Tannehill no less than 6 times with one of the sacks resulting in a turnover.
- The Ravens have the No. 2 ranked Red Zone offense going up against the Titans No. 31 ranked Red Zone defense. Lamar Jackson & Co. will go 4 for 5 in the Red Zone.
Bring on the Chiefs!
Ravens 34 Titans 17
— With the exception of Mark Ingram, the Ravens expect to be fully healthy for the Titans. If Ingram cannot play, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill can carry the load. The Titans were ranked 12th against the run and 24th against the pass, so the Ravens should be able to move the ball.
— If the Titans stack the box, Jackson will look for Mark Andrews in the middle of the field or throw over the top to rookie receiver Marquise Brown. Lamar Jackson has to be aware of Titans safety Kevin Byard (five interceptions) and cornerback Logan Ryan (four interceptions). Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to contain Tennessee linebacker Harold Landry, who led the team with nine sacks.
— The Ravens defensive game plan is simple: Stop Derrick Henry and force Ryan Tannehill to win the game. Tannehill was asked to manage the game against the Patriots, completing eight of 15 passes for 72 yards with a touchdown and interception. The Ravens will look to neutralize Henry with defensive tackles Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce and Domata Peko. Tennessee will stick with the run even if the Ravens shut it down early.
— The Titans are the only AFC playoff team the Ravens did not play in 2019. That could be an advantage for Baltimore because opposing teams have struggled to adjust to the speed of Jackson up close. The Ravens also had an extra week to rest and prepare. John Harbaugh has traditionally been at his best coming off a bye. Tennessee had an emotional victory in New England and will be confident heading into Baltimore. The Ravens have met almost every challenge they faced this season and they won’t slip up now.
Ravens 33 Titans 20
Remember in 2009, the last time the Patriots played in the Wild Card round? The Ravens went up to Foxborough and ran all over them on their way to a 33-14 victory. Sorta like the Titans did last week.
The next week, the Ravens were feeling confident and immediately hit the cleat of reality when they traveled to Indianapolis to face the AFC’s top seed. A similar cleat awaits the Titans.
Another similarity, pointed out by RSR’s Dev Panchwagh, is that the QB did very little in the win against the Pats (Flacco’s 34 yards were the butt of many jokes over the years).
The Titans are a fine squad with a bright future. They should be proud of winning against Tom & Bill in their house. But their run ends this week.
If I have a concern, it’s that LJ has gotten off to some slow starts when he’s been a little too amped up for the game (think Houston, KC, @ Cle). Each time, he’s settled in nicely though. Last year’s loss to San Diego eats at him every day, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s a little too hyped up at the start. What worries me is that portions of the crowd (which will have been tailgating for oh, ~8-10 hours) may take on a “here we go again” mentality in the event of a slow start. Don’t do that, Baltimore. The kid will find it, and will find it in a big way.
Ravens 26 Titans 16
The Ravens have taken the league by storm on offense by being equal parts explosive and imposing. It’s a unique dynamic and one that very few teams have the personnel to consistently match. As long as that pre-bye week team shows up I find it difficult to find a way this Titan team is able to slow them enough to be successful.
Defensively, this was the worst matchup the Ravens could have drawn. I don’t say that in a fearful sense. The Ravens have had some edge-setting issues at times but when they’ve had to devote resources, buckle down and stop the run they’ve done it. They know from the very first snap of this game what they’re facing.
The reason this is the worst matchup is because it goes against the Ravens biggest advantage on defense…the deepest and most talented secondary in the NFL. When the Ravens can play sub packages, mix and match their secondary parts and unleash those exotic blitzes they are a handful to deal with. This game will require more base defense and probably less chaos but as much of a challenge as it will be to contain Henry, it’s a challenge this defense will be up to.
Ravens 27 Titans 17
— The Titans present a tough matchup for the Ravens and remind me a lot of past Baltimore teams that have gone on deep runs. What also scares me is that this Ravens team reminds me an awful lot of the 2012 Broncos given how unstoppable both seemed to be. However, I feel that’s probably more about this being uncharted territory for the Ravens than anything else.
— Derrick Henry really is the primary concern here for the Ravens, and while I don’t think he’ll be completely stopped, a massive way to neutralize him will be to put Tennessee in an early hole. If I win the toss, why not receive the kick? Go up 7-0, hope it turns into 10- or 14-0 and go from there. Make Tannehill throw the Titans back into the game (news flash, he won’t).
— Last year’s playoff loss very clearly still stings and has driven Lamar Jackson to greatness this season. Luckily for us, that season isn’t over until he hoists the Lombardi. Expect a masterful performance by Jackson both on the ground and through the air.
— I’ll predict the one big play of the game: a 60- yard TD run by Henry that puts us on the edge of our seats and makes us wonder, just for a second, if Tennessee could make a comeback. Don’t worry, though, it’ll only cut the lead to single digits for a moment before a signature backbreaking drive by the Ravens that erases all doubt.
Ravens 33 Titans 20
It’s almost time. The Ravens get to host their divisional round game against the Tennessee Titans. The talk of the matchup is Derrick Henry vs. the Ravens defense. Understandably, fans have concerns about stopping the zone stretch scheme the Titans employ after seeing someone like Raheem Mostert have success against them.
Personally, I don’t have a ton of concerns with it. Listen, Henry is going to get his. You’re not going to stop him on short runs every single time. He will have a few extended runs. Overall, however, the Ravens will win that battle.
With all due respect, this game comes down to Lamar Jackson vs. the 21st-ranked defense. Yes, the Titans defense has made plays when it matters but they’ve also had their issues against formidable offenses. If the Titans are going to win, they have to keep the ball out of the Raven offense’s hands and convert touchdowns. The last thing they can afford is to get down early.
— Henry will have a solid day, rushing for 110 yards and will get in the end zone once, but that’ll be on a longer run of 35 yards.
— The Ravens will get ahead 14-3 and force the Titans out of their game and make them play from behind.
— With Tannehill needing to throw more, he will turn the ball over once on a strip-sack my Matthew Judon.
— A late touchdown pass by Tannehill makes this look closer that it really is.
Ravens 27 Titans 17
During Wild Card weekend, I held my belief that that Titans were the one team that the Ravens did not want to play. Ryan Tannehill had the hot hand, the defense was playing solid, and Derrick Henry was dominating the middle of the field. Pair that with the best rookie WR of the 2019 class in A.J.Brown, and you had a team that was posed for a deep run.
After taking a few days to think about the match up, I have settled into a place of peace with this team.
Baltimore was the best regular season team this year by a wide margin. If we learned anything from watching this team, it’s that you never really understand this team until you actually play them. Every game had a different feel, and the team won in different ways every week. Unlike any other sport in the big four, it’s a win-or-go-home situation in the NFL. Based on what the Titans showed against NE, even though we have learned that NE was not that great this year, I just don’t see TEN winning this game.
— Lamar will ease into his first playoff win. Taking advantage of the play-action/bootleg game, Lamar will throw for 250 yards and a score, while adding one goal line rushing TD.
— Gus Edwards will handle the workload, surpassing 150 yards and 2 scores, as the Ravens will want to control the clock for the entire game.
— Ryan Tannehill will make some impressive throws downfield, but it will prove futile as he will be playing from behind most of the game, thus making some mistakes he hasn’t made in some time. I expect a stat line around 200 yards with one TD and a pick six.
— Henry will have his “way” against the Ravens defense. Whenever you are playing from behind, it is difficult to continuously rely on the running game (see BAL vs. KC in Week 3). Henry will rush for 90 yards and two scores.
— Marcus Peters will bait Tannehill into a pick six, as I foresee a similar TD the one he had versus Seattle earlier this year.
As stated earlier, even though I feel Tennessee could possibly surprise the Ravens, I just don’t see them winning if they play the way they did in New England.
Baltimore 28 Tennessee 17
Don’t count me among those that would call the Titans a hot team right now. They lost 2 of their last 3 regular season games and the only game they won was against the Texans that rested their starters, the same team that beat them two weeks prior to that. Let’s not forget they finished the regular season (9-7).
As far as beating the Patriots in the Wild Card round of the playoffs…oh you mean the team that lost to the Dolphins the week before. I’m not completely discrediting the Titans because they do present some problems. I’m just saying that the hype surrounding them right now is going to look silly after they face a team like the Ravens.
• Derrick Henry will be held to under 75 yards but he will score a touchdown.
• Ryan Tannehill will be forced to throw more but will be held under 200 yards.
• A.J Brown will have some success and score a touchdown but will be held to under 60 yards
• Marcus Peters shows his gratitude to the Ravens for his contract extension with an interception
• Marlon Humphrey forces a fumble by punching out the ball and the Ravens recover it.
• Lamar Jackson carries his regular season dominance into the playoffs with 3 touchdown passes and runs for over 100 yards.
• Gus Edwards runs for over 100 yards even if Ingram is healthy enough to play.
• Mark Andrews has 5 catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.
• Hollywood Brown scores a 50 yard plus touchdown
PREDICTION: Ravens 35, Titans 17