For the second year in a row, the Baltimore Ravens and Tennesee Titans will face off in the playoffs. While the Titans stunned the #1-seeded Ravens last year, the circumstances in 2021 are a bit different.
In 2020, the Ravens were heavy favorites heading into their divisional matchup against the Titans. This year, Baltimore enters Sunday’s game as a wild card and will be visiting that AFC South champions. Both teams ended the season with 11-5 records. Given how they both ended their seasons, it is not a surprise that the Ravens are 3.5 point favorites heading into this playoff game.
Baltimore at Tennessee (BAL -3.5): Sunday, January 10th, 2021 – 1:05 pm ET (ABC/ESPN)
How the Titans Win
Win time of possession
The Titans have all the tools necessary to win the possession battle in this ball game. RB Derrick Henry has repeated as rushing champion while becoming only the 8th running back in NFL history to eclipse 2000 rushing yards. It should not be difficult to keep the ball away from QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense.
While Jackson can be hit-or-miss in any given game, Tennessee’s defense does not have the luxury of gambling. Over the course of the season, the Titans defense has looked worse week-after-week. Add to that an inconsistent kicking game, and there is no doubt that the possession battle will have to go their way for the team to stand a chance.
Trust A.J. Brown
Outside of Derrick Henry, WR A.J. Brown is the most dangerous weapon on Tennessee’s side. The Titans have to believe that they can rely on Brown to beat heavy coverage. If they stuff the run and Henry is not having the day the team needs, Brown will need to step up.
Ravens’ CB Marcus Peters is likely to line up against Brown all game. While Peters is a great corner, he also likes to take chances. Trusting Brown on 50-50 balls throughout the game will be key. This also places the onus on Titans’ QB Ryan Tannehill to deliver accurate passes. If their chemistry is on, the Ravens are in trouble.
Defenses need to understand that they are not going to get to Lamar Jackson with enough frequency to make a difference. The quarterback’s ability to improvise and escape pressure is second-to-none. The Titans would be wise to limit the number of pass-rushers they line up on any given play.
If the Titans hope to stifle the Ravens’ offense, replacing a down lineman with an additional linebacker or corner back is key. When Lamar Jackson is given time to overthink and have to pass, he struggles. By having enough athletic defenders on the field capable of containing Lamar to some kind of pocket, the Titans win.
How the Ravens Win
Don’t let Lamar pass
Lamar Jackson is not a good passer. The Titans can’t defend anything at all. The result should not be complicated. If the Ravens run the football consistently, they will win this ball game.
Tennessee should focus on running and controlling the clock. If the Ravens successfully use the RPO to secure an early lead, the Titans will be rattled. However, if Lamar is allowed to pass and he makes early mistakes, the Titans and Derrick Henry will not be forgiving. Don’t mess around, Harbaugh – you know who butters your bread.
Let Henry run
Derrick Henry cannot be stopped. Baltimore would be foolish to load the box against the Titans’ run game. It just does not work. As unconventional as it sounds, the Ravens are better off letting Henry run.
By earning small chunks of yardage here and there while limiting big plays, the Ravens will ensure a cap on the Titans’ possible points. If the Titans want to run, let them do it. As long as the Ravens’ defense doubles-down on pass coverage and bends without breaking too often, this is a good formula for success.
If the Ravens allow Henry to run, the Titans will have to devote special attention to A.J. Brown. The man is a stud. As good as Marcus Peters is, he will need help. Selling out to stop Brown and big plays will be much more beneficial than trying to stop Henry.
If Henry runs with limited scoring and Brown does nothing, that leaves the Titans in a position where the only way they win is if Tannehill and WR Corey Davis have a career day. If I am Baltimore, I take my chances letting those two try to win a playoff game.
Prediction: Baltimore 31 Tennessee 27
Baltimore ended the season strong and will undoubtedly head to Tennessee with revenge on their mind. I can see Henry going off and scoring a couple of times. At the end of the day, though, Tennessee’s defense is non-existent and the Ravens should be able to run all over them.