Darin McCann makes his pick:
The Baltimore Ravens (finally!) start their playoff push this weekend, hosting the Tennessee Titans in primetime on Saturday night for the right to advance to the AFC Championship Game. Though the Titans do offer a few challenges, the Ravens match up fairly well against them and should be able to make it past this round.
Let’s take a look at some basic numbers, knowing they never tell the full story, but at least can give you a little to work with when considering matchups. The biggest, obviously, is records. The Baltimore Ravens finished the year on a 12-game winning streak to cap off a 14-2 regular season and the top seed in the AFC. The Titans got in as the final seed, with a 9-7 mark. Advantage: Ravens.
Offensively, the Baltimore Ravens put up 407.6 yards per game, to the Titans’ 362.8. Advantage: Ravens. The Ravens scored an average of 33.2 points per game, tops in the NFL. The Titans posted 25.1. Advantage: Ravens.
On the defensive side, the Baltimore Ravens allowed 300.6 yards a game, while the Titans gave up 359.5. Advantage: Ravens. The Ravens defense gave up 17.6 points a game, while the Titans surrendered 20.7. Advantage: Ravens.
Tennessee’s offense has been much better in the second half of the season, taking advantage of the running of Derrick Henry and play-action passes to receivers who were facing man-to-man coverage because of extra attention paid to Henry. Here’s the problem for Tennessee: The Ravens have an amazingly talented crew of man-to-man defensive backs who should be able to control the passing game while the rest of the squad focus on stopping Henry.
If the Baltimore Ravens do have a telling weakness on the defensive side, it’s that they often fail to win one-on-one matchups in pass rush. But I feel the press coverage advantage of the Ravens corners will negate that, and scheme blitzes from Brandon Carr and Earl Thomas could wipe out any advantage Tennessee might have.
Offensively, I just don’t see the Ravens offense being stopped. By anyone. A good performance by the opposition could hold them to 20. Can Tennessee top that? I don’t see it.
• The Baltimore Ravens tight ends combine for 130-plus yards and a touchdown against this Dean Pees defense.
• Lamar Jackson will throw for more than 200 yards and run for more than 70. It will be a show under the bright lights.
• Robert Griffin III will take snaps in the fourth quarter.
Ravens 34 Titans 13