The Ravens travel to Nashville Friday to play a Divisional Playoff game against the former AFC North rival Tennessee Titans at LP Field on Saturday (4:30pm ET).
*BR.com offers a breakdown of Baltimore's next playoff opponent. *
Total Offense - 21 (313.6) Total Defense - 7 (293.6)
Rush Offense - 7 (137.4) Rush Defense - 6 (93.9)
Pass Offense - 27 (176.2) Pass Defense - 9 (199.8)
Points Per Game - T14 (23.4) Points Per Game - 2 (14.6)
Sizing Them Up
Beware of the Tennessee Titans. Sure, they may have finished their stellar season by going 3-3, but remember that this is the team that also started out 10-0. It will not be easy for the Ravens to exact revenge for their 13-10 loss to the Titans earlier this year.
They are well coached, by long-time head man Jeff Fisher and bright coordinators Mike Heimerdinger (offense) and Jim Schwartz (defense). They have one of the top rushing attacks in the league. And, they boast a lights-out defense that is getting two of its best players back.
That is the recipe for playoff success.
Offensively, the speedy Chris Johnson and bruising LenDale White tote the rock for Tennessee. They combined for 2,001 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns this year. Only twice before has the franchise surpassed 20 rushing scores.
At quarterback, 14-year veteran Kerry Collins provides a steady hand. He only threw seven interceptions and completed 58.3 percent of his passes in 2008. Collins is capable of making plays when the balance is on the line, as demonstrated by his game-winning drive against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 4.
The Titans will miss Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae because of an elbow injury, but capable backup Leroy Harris filled in admirably in their season finale.
On defense, it starts up front. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, returning from a long respite due to a knee injury, is a monster in the middle. He led the team with 8.5 sacks. Off the edge, Kyle Vanden Bosch is a former Pro Bowler that can get after the quarterback.
The Titans' secondary features two Pro Bowlers, safety Chris Hope and cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Hope is a deadly hitter that earned an All-Star nod because of his leadership, 93 tackles and four interceptions. The fiery Finnegan, meanwhile, is simply a playmaker. In his third season, he started all 16 regular-season and posted a career-high five picks.
Gary Estwick of The Tennessean writes about Harris taking over for Mawae at center.
"In Saturday's AFC Divisional playoff game the second-year pro will be partly responsible for dissecting Baltimore's second-ranked defense and all the tricks and gimmicks linebacker Ray Lewis and his Ravens buddies hurl at the offensive line."
This is from *Tennessean *columnist David Climer, who notes linebacker Keith Bulluck’s return to the playoffs.
"Now 31 and in his ninth NFL season, Bulluck knows the score. Playoff football is not an entitlement. There are no guarantees. He played remarkable football in 2004, '05 and '06, but there was no postseason reward."
*The Tennessean's *Jim Wyatt and Estwick have a story about the Titan’s punter, Craig Hentrich.
"Hentrich said he was dropping the ball down and inside, causing a number of shanked punts. He said he corrected the flaw during the regular-season finale at Indianapolis and has continued to work on it."
Offensive – Chris Johnson gets this award again. He is the lightning that charges Tennessee's offense. Johnson was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie after totaling 1,228 rushing yards and 260 yards on 43 receptions. In 2008, Johnson surpassed the 100-yard mark four times, including a 168-yard game on Oct. 19 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Defensive – The Ravens will have to watch out for Bulluck, who is the franchise's third all-time tackler. His ninth year saw him post 120 tackles to lead the team, and the venerable Bulluck is an emotional leader of the Titans' locker room.
When Haynesworth was inactive for the last two contests of the year, rookie defensive tackle Jason Jones filled in. Jones started against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and recorded 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and seven total tackles. The 6-foot-5, 275-pounder's sack total was a half-sack shy of the club's single-game record.
Ravens S Ed Reed vs. Titans QB Kerry CollinsWith 10 interceptions over his last seven games, Reed has turned in one of the most prolific stretches in NFL history. He'll definitely be ball-hawking Collins, who takes care of the football. But, if there is ample pressure up the middle, Collins could be baited into fluttering a pass. When that happens, Reed always seems to be on the spot.
Ravens DT Haloti Ngata vs. Titans C Leroy HarrisHarris is inexperienced, having only started one game this year. His presence makes Ngata's matchup completely different than what it would be with Mawae in the game. Ngata could attempt to make a statement for being snubbed for the Pro Bowl in favor of Haynesworth, and if so, watch out, Kerry.
Fisher on the Ravens coming away from the first game of the season against the Titans feeling they were shortchanged by the referees and what his team feels they took away from that game:"We found a way to win the ball game at the end. It was a tough ball game and a tough place to play, and we were without a couple of receivers and a couple of defensive lineman, and we didn't play particularly well ourselves. We just felt lucky to get away with the win. That's how games are during the regular season. Sometimes you don't play well and you still win; sometimes you play very well and you don't. But, again, I think as coaches we look at not necessarily the outcome but what took place between the opening kickoff and the end of the game and what the schematic approaches were and what to anticipate next time around."
Collins on if he is surprised by the way the Titans' season has progressed and how he ended up in this position:"It certainly isn't what I expected when I started the season, but I'm not surprised that we've been successful and that we've had a good year. I never want to be surprised when I'm successful or the team I'm on is successful."
What's not to like about another knockdown, grinding Ravens-Titans battle? This is going to be a slug-fest.
But say what you will about the matchups of two stellar rushing attacks against two tough defenses, there is something else that deserves a mention.
I'm talking about the Ravens' passing attack, which I think is going to be a key to Saturday.
Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco!(/team/roster/joe-flacco/3e20766f-6520-4ca1-9901-44389aaea8b8/ "Joe Flacco") may have thrown two bad interceptions the last time these two teams met, but he is a completely different quarterback than the wide-eyed first-rounder he was back in Week 4.
Flacco is one of the best downfield passers in the NFL, and he could do some damage to Tennessee if he can complete a few deep balls at LP Field. He tried last week against the Dolphins, but just didn't hit.
This time, he's got to, especially if he wants the Titans' defense to stay honest.
To open up long attempts, though, the running game is going to have to be active early. It all goes hand-in-hand, because nothing in this battle is going to be handed to the Ravens.
Ed. note: These aren't necessarily the beliefs of the Ravens organization.