The NFL Playoffs are set and will start this coming Saturday. For the first time ever, there will be six games played on Wild Card weekend after the NFL added the seventh seed to each bracket. With the Kansas City Chiefs having earned first place, the rest of the AFC will battle it out this weekend. One of the more intriguing AFC Wild Card matchups is the Tennessee Titans vs the Baltimore Ravens.
Familiar AFC Wild Card Matchup
These two franchises have a history, dating back to the early 2000s. Does anyone else remember Eddie George and Ray Lewis battling it out? How about when the Ravens upset the Titans in the 2008 playoffs? On top of that, last year Tennessee stunned Baltimore in the playoffs after Derrick Henry delivered a stiff arm to Earl Thomas that was so powerful, Thomas turned into a lead blocker.
This AFC wild card matchup this weekend will count as the third time in two years these teams have played each other. The Titans are 2-0 in the previous two matchups, where the last game ended with Henry icing the game in overtime. In their last five games, the Ravens have been red hot going 5-0 while the Titans went 3-2 to round out the season.
Both squads have had their ups and downs this year, but none of that matters anymore. Although the Ravens are on fire, they’ll be traveling to Tennessee this weekend after the Titans clinched the AFC South for the first time since 2008. This will likely be a close game that comes down to the wire, as each team possesses a high powered rushing attack, and a will to win. Here is my preview of the Titans vs Ravens AFC Wild Card game.
AFC Wild Card Preview: Offense, Offense, and More Offense
If you’re searching for some fireworks from an AFC wild card game this weekend, look no further than the Titans/Ravens game. These teams finished as the top two rushing teams in the league, and both ended up within the top 10 in total points scored.
The Tennessee Titans Offense
For the Titans, Derrick Henry became only the eighth player in NFL history to eclipse 2000 rushing yards in a single season. At the same time, AJ Brown finished with over 1000 receiving yards for the second year in a row and added 11 touchdowns to his impressive season. Furthermore, Ryan Tannehill threw for 3,819 yards and 33 touchdowns, making this season the third-best year a QB has had in Titans franchise history. Not to mention, the offensive line played as a top unit, and Corey Davis finally emerged as a solid WR2. He will try to showcase that his regular-season ability can translate into post-season success, in the Titans pivotal AFC wild card game this weekend.
The Baltimore Ravens Offense
Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens rush game has been as dangerous as a three-headed dragon. Between Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards, and JK Dobbins, the Ravens finished the season in first place with 3,071 total rushing yards. During their five-game winning streak, Jackson has been able to post impressive numbers in the passing game, throwing for 809 yards and 11 touchdowns. Additionally, Marquise Brown has seemed to come alive as of late, as he’s recorded 253 yards and five touchdowns to end the year.
AFC Wild Card Preview: How About That Defense?
Where the differences lie in this game is on the defensive side of the ball, and this is why the Ravens will likely be the favorite heading into kickoff. Baltimore’s defense has been one of the best in the NFL this year, while Tennessee’s defense has one of the worst units in franchise history.
The Ravens Sturdy Defense
For the Ravens, their defense ranks within the top eight when it comes to stopping the pass and the run. Furthermore, they’re the second-best team in the league at preventing points scored after only allowing 303 points on the year.
Acquiring Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, and Derek Wolfe has been a huge boost to the Ravens front seven. Not to mention, their impressive secondary containing Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters makes the defense nearly impossible to throw against. Also, rookie standout Patrick Queen has been lights out this year, finishing with 106 total tackles, three sacks, and two fumble recoveries.
This is a Ravens defense that was built for the playoffs. They can stop the run, they eliminate the passing game, and they get after the QB. Baltimore has a legitimate opportunity to make a deep playoff run this year.
The Titans Pathetic Defense
On the other side of the field, the Titans have struggled all year long on defense. After allowing 6,372 total yards (4,439 of those through the air), the Titans ended up with the fifth-worst defense this year (along with the fourth-worst passing defense).
It is safe to say, this is not an AFC wild card game worthy defense. That is not for a lack of effort from the front office, however.
This past offseason, the Titans went all out on pass rushers after signing Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley. The moves made sense, but the ROI wasn’t great, as they were both complete duds. Between the two, they ended the year with a total of just 21 total tackles and zero sacks (Beasley only recorded two tackles on the year). At least Clowney was able to provide some pressure, but considering the Titans front office dished out $22.5 million on these guys, this was a total miss on their part.
Tennessee definitely messed up after deciding not to hire a new defensive coordinator after Dean Pees retired. It didn’t help that Kevin Byard had a down year, and Adoree’ Jackson was injured for most of the season. Additionally, the Titans have the third-worst pass rush in the league after only recording 19 sacks on the year. They also have been atrocious on third downs, giving up a first down on 51.9% on third-down attempts, which is the worst in NFL history.
AFC Wild Card Preview: The Expectations
At the end of the day, the mismatch thrives whenever the Ravens have possession of the ball. Luckily for Tennessee, their rush defense was at least average, which is the only positive thing I have to say about that unit.
The Ravens are currently favored to win this game, which makes sense considering the glaring weakness the Titans have. However, this matchup is going to be a close game throughout, as the Titans are so good at offense, it nearly balances out their team as a whole.
If you’re a fan of hard-nosed, full forced, punch-you-in-the-face football, this is the AFC wild card game to watch. Both franchises will be looking to control the clock with the run game and light up the scoreboard. If you’re into betting, take the over, as I believe both teams will score 30+ points on Sunday.