The Baltimore Ravens will reignite an old rivalry against the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional playoffs Saturday.
With the help of Derrick Henry, the Tennessee Titans have earned themselves a match up with the AFC’s top dog. The Ravens will host the Titans for Baltimore’s first Divisional playoff game in 5 years, and the first at The Bank in nearly 8.
Since turning the reigns over to Ryan Tannehill, the Titans have had one of the league’s top offenses. And the Ravens’ former AFC Central rival now has fresh wind under their sails after going into Foxborough and knocking off the defending champion New England Patriots.
Tannehill, statistically, has been one of the best Quarterbacks not named Lamar Jackson since taking over in Week 7. Being the man under center when your team beats the New England Patriots in a playoff game is no small accomplishment, but I think it’s best we call a spade a spade.
In that game, Tannehill was no more than a game manager. To suggest anything else would not only be inaccurate, but offensive. He went eight of 15 for 72 yards with one touchdown and one interception. To say this was a pedestrian stat line would be an overstatement.
All credit is due to Henry treating the Patriots’ defense like the ones he faced in high school and pounding the rock 34 times for 182 yards and a touchdown. But stats aren’t everything.
The Titans’ “high-powered” offense all but disappeared going scoreless in the second half against a Patriots defense that recently let a Ryan Fitzpatrick led Dolphins team move the ball with ease. Instead, they had to play the field position game and rely on the tremendous foot of punter, Brett Kern, to pin the Patriots deep, which he did. Mike Vrabel proved that he paid attention to Bill Belichick’s lectures with his crafty clock management.
While winning the field position battle and operating strategically go a long way in winning football games, these tactics are essentially rendered useless while playing from behind. Especially if the Ravens are able to open the flood gates early on the scoreboard as they have all season.
Such a run-heavy attack works well with the lead, we know this as Ravens fans. As Ravens fans we also know what happens to one dimensional offenses in the playoffs.
Henry is no easy player to plan for, especially for a Ravens defense that ranks 28th against the run. Henry presents just as big of a rushing threat as Lamar Jackson with nearly the exact opposite skill set. Tackling him is like tackling a tractor-trailer with a Ferrari’s handling. You can rest assured, however; Earl Thomas has said that the Ravens defense is in fact interested in tackling Henry.
Henry being such an integral part of the game plan gives the Ravens one clear objective: make Tannehill throw.
Coming off one week’s rest, the Ravens will roll out the league’s most prolific rushing offense of all time against the Titans’ 21st ranked run defense. Truth be told, it doesn’t matter where you rank, the Ravens are running the ball and you cannot stop it.
January football is a completely different animal and overlooking teams is what gets Super Bowl shoe-ins eliminated in their first game. But if the results of this season serve as any indication, the Ravens will not overlook the Titans.
That being said, any discussion of a potential upset is blasphemous. Especially when citing the “rest vs. rust” factor.
John Harbaugh’s Ravens have a 10-2 record coming off a bye week, including a home playoff victory over the Houston Texans in 2012. To take it a step further, Harbaugh has a 14-1 record in home prime time games. The Ravens should be expected to win this game.