What better time to renew a rivalry than in the playoffs? The high-stakes matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans this Saturday harkens back to the cutthroat days of the AFC Central division, and the many playoff meetings between the two powerhouses of the early 2000s. It’s been a long time since a Titans and Ravens matchup held some meaning to it, but Saturday’s matchup carries a significant amount of weight. The winner punches a ticket to the AFC Championship game while the loser goes home. The Ravens will need a victory to continue their quest for the Super Bowl.
Here’s how the Ravens can defeat their old rival.
Ravens Front Seven vs Derrick Henry
It’s no secret that the Titans offense is centered around Derrick Henry. The former Heisman Trophy winner led the league in rushing this year. Henry is not the conventional running back. He is not a finesse type player, but a bruiser that will pound through defenders with ease. He is gigantic for his position, taller than most wide receivers at 6’3″. His 247 lb weight makes him even more difficult to bring down. Most people know that Henry is huge and hard to take down, but what most don’t realize is that Henry is fast as well. He can hit the edge in a rush and leave defenders in the dust. This combination is deadly, and unless the Ravens defense sets the edge and suffocates the run game, Derrick Henry will keep the Titans involved throughout all four quarters.
Ravens Defense vs Ryan Tannehill
Ryan Tannehill put on one of the best comeback seasons ever witnessed in the National Football League. By all accounts, Tannehill’s career was as dead as a doorknob. His time in Miami convinced not only the Dolphins but the rest of the league that he was not fit to serve as a franchise quarterback. But yet, here we are in the 2020 playoffs, with a much-improved Ryan Tannehill at the helm of the Tennessee Titans offense. Despite his great season, Tannehill was simply pedestrian against the great Patriots defense. Tannehill was limited in part to a 53.3% completion rate and 72 passing yards because running back Derrick Henry stole the show, but Tannehill’s numbers were undoubtedly deflated because of the excellent work by the Patriots’ defense. To keep the Titans’ offense one-dimensional, the Ravens pass rush must intimidate Tannehill, and the secondary must make life difficult with tight coverage throughout the game.
Titans Run Defense vs Ravens Banged Up Attack
It looks like Baltimore’s own star Heisman running back from Alabama, Mark Ingram, is gearing up to play on Saturday. Ingram suffered a calf injury in Baltimore’s Week 16 game against the Cleveland Browns. His playoff status was in doubt, but Ingram said he would be ready to go for Baltimore’s divisional game. Ingram returned to practice in a limited capacity on Thursday and is listed as questionable to play on Saturday. If Ingram is absent from the field, the Ravens will have to rely on second-string running back Gus Edwards, who is a great downfield runner in his own right. If Ingram plays, he will not be playing at 100%, and will split reps with Edwards. Whether Ingram plays or not, the Ravens backfield will not function in its usual capacity. No matter who is on the field this Saturday, the Ravens must ensure the one-two punch of Lamar Jackson and the running backs still dominate on the ground.
Mark Ingram II
Mark Ingram’s situation greatly impacts the Ravens’ offensive strategy. His absence or presence on the offense will determine how the Ravens attack the Titans.
The other Mark on the team, Mark Andrews, is also questionable. The Pro Bowl tight end is a necessary component of the passing game, and his absence would greatly hinder Baltimore’s air attack.
Jaylon Ferguson, although not the most important edge rusher, will have a super-important job on Saturday. He must protect the edge against Derrick Henry, who punishes defenses for failing to do so. Ferguson has consistently set the edge well all season, so he should be able to do so against Tennesee. But will he be able to survive a hit from Henry?
The game will stay close throughout the first half, but the Baltimore Ravens will pull away from the Tennessee Titans in the second half. The Ravens are just a better all-around team. The offense is a top-notch multidimensional attack, and the defense suffocates opposing offenses in both the passing and running games. Tennessee is a good team, but Baltimore is a great team.