DERRICK HENRY!!!! Sorry, I meant Go Titans! As the great saying goes, when the Patriots lose, America wins and that’s exactly what happened Saturday night.
How about them Titans. They marched right into Foxborough after barely squeezing into a wild card spot and beat the defending champions 20-13. Tennessee’s defense was superb, shutting down the run game and making a crucial goal line stand to end the 1st half. However, the offense was terrible outside of Derrick Henry.
Tannehill only had 71 passing yards, but only 15 attempts. The midseason starter came up big when needed though, completing a touchdown pass early on to tight end Anthony Firsker, and then late in the 4th quarter with a pass to Firsker on 3rd down to keep the drive alive, and almost surely put the game out of reach for the Pats.
The Ravens, on the other hand, have been spectacular this entire season. They have the projected league MVP on their roster in quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has silenced all the critics who said he should play running back or wide receiver (well, all except Bill Polian). Baltimore leads the NFL with 206 rushing yards per game.
The passing game isn’t spectacular, but Lamar can throw when needed. This defense has been a different breed once they acquired Marcus Peters, ranking 4th in total defense, and in the top 6 for both passing and rushing defense. They come into the Divisional Round on a 12-game win streak.
Here are my 3 X-Factors that will decide the game.
Titans cannot go down early in this game- The Ravens have a point differential of +97 in the first quarter. If the Titans intend to ride Derrick Henry for majority of the game, they need to avoid slow starts. Tannehill didn’t look good in the game against the Patriots, but he was a top 5 quarterback for the second half of the regular season, so we know he has the upside.
But do I really trust him in a playoff game against the best team in football? Also, if the Ravens have a big lead, it plays into their strength, which is running the football. The Titans have to keep the game within 1 possession during this first quarter in order to stay within striking range.
Time of Possession- The Titans need to keep Lamar off the field for as long as possible. In their win against the Pats, the Titans dominated time of possession, and in the 4th quarter, took up over 11 minutes on long drives. To control time of possession against a dynamic offense like Baltimore, they will have to run the ball effectively with Derrick Henry, which is their strength.
On the Ravens side of the ball, they want to force Tannehill to beat them. If the Titans have less time to score, they will need to pass the ball more. This will also play into the Ravens’ strength of running the football and forcing the journeyman quarterback to beat their secondary. Whoever dominates time of possession will win this football game.
Start off strong- The Ravens have been notorious for their first quarters. When they played the Rams, it was already 14-0 within minutes. With the Titans so reliant on Derrick Henry, Baltimore going up early will force them to get away from the run game and for Tannehill to make some throws, something he only did a grand total of 15 times last week. Furthermore, allowing the Ravens to kill the clock by establishing the run is a recipe for disaster.
Final Score: Baltimore 24, Tennessee 10.