By: Jordan Kendall, Assistant Sports Editor
After a shocking 20-13 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, the Tennessee Titans head to Baltimore this Sunday. The Ravens will have their hands full in this game but are still considered a heavy favorite. Entering the playoffs, it seemed that Baltimore was the team to beat in the AFC, but I think the Titans have a better chance than most people do to win this game. It’s going to be difficult, but here are a few key things that Tennessee will need to accomplish on Sunday.
Control the clock
We all know how special Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has played this season. He broke Michael Vick’s rushing record for a quarterback while also throwing for 36 touchdowns and only six interceptions. The MVP front runner has been more than just a runner this season, and so far, it seems that no one has been able to stop him for 60 minutes.
If the Titans want to win this game, they must control the clock. Tennessee finished the regular season ranked 28th in time of possession while the Ravens were first. To me, the best chance the Titans have at winning this game is keeping Lamar on the sideline. The more clock they can drain, the less time Jackson has to do what he does best. Seeing what running back Derrick Henry did to the Patriots, it’s certainly possible he can do it again.
Against New England, Henry rushed 34 times for 182 yards and a touchdown. He led the NFL in rushing in the regular season with over 1,500 yards. The Patriots had the eighth best run defense, Baltimore had the fourth best. The Ravens have played well against the run but gave up more yards at home which could be a factor. If Tennessee can drain the clock and keep Jackson off the field, their run game can tire out the Baltimore defense. This could lead to some big plays late in the game that could be the difference for the Titans.
The passing game could be important for Tennessee
It’s no surprise that the leading rusher in the NFL had the third best rushing offense in the league. Led by tackle Taylor Lewan, Tennessee’s offensive line is one of the best in football for opening up holes. The problem is, sometimes these holes open up for defenders to attack quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Titans gave up the third most sacks with 56 and their 97 quarterback hits allowed were ninth most. This could be a problem against the Ravens who finished with the sixth best pass defense only surrendering 207 yards per game.
If Tennessee wants to win this game, they’ll have to throw the ball eventually and cannot afford to take sacks. It’s obvious the Titans are a run first team, as their passing offense ranked 21st in yards despite a 1,000 yard season from rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown. Wide receiver Corey Davis had 600 yards as their number two receiver, but the former first round pick hasn’t lived up to expectations. Tannehill doesn’t necessarily need to single handedly win this game, but I doubt his 72 passing yards against the Patriots will be enough this time.
Baltimore is going to key in on Henry and likely force Tannehill to beat them with his arm. He’s played well this season, completing 70% of his passes and only throwing six picks. However, if this game comes down to the fourth quarter he may need to make some throws. He could be the difference in this game. If the Ravens can prevent Henry from doing damage, Tennessee could be in serious trouble. I don’t know if I trust the Titans passing offense to beat Baltimore.
My prediction for the game
Lamar Jackson is the likely MVP for a reason. He elevated his game further than anyone could have predicted entering the season. He looks like he could be one of the top three best quarterbacks in the NFL for the next 10-15 years. This is the first time the Ravens have the number one seed in the AFC. Baltimore will pack M&T Bank Stadium and will be as loud as anyone in the league. I think the Ravens will be motivated to finish this season out strong, and with the fans backing them up will provide them the boost they need.
I think Tennessee can hang with Baltimore in the first half, but I see Lamar taking over after halftime and proving why he’s the MVP. My prediction for this game is the Ravens advance to the AFC Championship winning 31-17.
Unless the Titans pull another huge upset, I look forward to seeing either Kansas Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, or Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson face Baltimore for a trip to Miami.