Ravens vs. Titans Game Preview

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*The Ravens are set to take on the Tennessee Titans this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. BR.com offers a breakdown of Baltimore's Week 5 opponent. *

Rankings

Total Offense - 22 (305.5) Total Defense - 5 (263.5)

Rush Offense - 8 (137.0) Rush Defense - 8 (86.8)

Pass Offense - 23 (168.5) Pass Defense -8 (176.8)

Points Per Game - 12 (25.5) Points Per Game - 1 (11.5)

Sizing Them Up

The Titans come to Charm City helmed by the NFL's most-tenured head coach in Jeff Fisher, who enters his 14th year on Tennessee's sideline. Fisher was there throughout the late 1990s, when the Ravens and Titans developed a rather heated rivalry.

But even though the head coach is the same man, this is certainly not the same Titans team. Offensively, they're led by a rookie and a third-year running back, with the speedy Chris Johnson and powerful LenDale White, respectively. Johnson ran the fastest time in the 40-yard dash at this year's NFL Combine (4.24 seconds), while the White gets it done between the tackles. White even leads the league with five rushing touchdowns.

When the 2008 schedule was first released, most - if not all - people expected to see Vince Young at quarterback, but it's going to be 14-year veteran Kerry Collins instead. Young sprained his knee in the season opener, which led to Collins' insertion. On their way to a 4-0 record, Collins has been efficient, going 47-of-83 (56.6 percent) for 577 yards, two scores and one interceptions.

Tennessee's defense is top notch, and that starts up front, where Albert Haynesworth, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jevon Kearse all have Pro Bowl experience. And, the underrated Tony Brown is coming off a year where he posted 83 stops. The physical quartet has combined for 13 sacks through four games.

The Titans' secondary is another strength. Behind the youth of cornerback Cortland Finnegan, a seventh-round draft pick in 2006, and safety Michael Griffin, a first-rounder that same year. Finnegan is now leading the NFL with four interceptions, while Griffin isn't far behind with three.

Kicker Rob Bironas highlights a special teams that is a solid unit. Bironas, a 2007 Pro Bowler, finshed second in franchise history in scoring (133 point), made field goals (35) and accuracy (89.7 percent) last year. Fifteen-year veteran Craig Hentrich handles the punting duties.

What's Up?

Gary Estwick of The Tennessean writes that many Titans are hanging on to the role of underdog, even though they're undefeated through four games.

"Still, there are players like Bulluck, hanging on to the underdog role like an old, dingy T-shirt two sizes too small. It looked so good on this team, and it played the role well."

Estwick also notes that Sunday is going to be a big day for Titans linebacker Stephen Tulloch because he's facing his childhood idol.

"It's Tulloch's first game against Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, a nine-time Pro Bowler, two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl XXXV MVP."

What do the Titans need to do to stay undefeated? *The Tennessean's *Jim Wyatt gives you the answer.

"But there's no question about this: the Titans will be tested Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. A look at five things we know — or at least think we know — heading into Sunday's contest."

Tom Weir, an NFL reporter from USA Today, offers his view of the Titans under Fisher since 1994.

"Jeff Fisher's watch started in 1994 as an interim replacement for Jack Pardee, when the team was in Houston. Since then, according to the Titans' media relations department, 97 men have been hired as NFL head coaches, some of them more than once."

Awards

Offensive - Chris Johnson is the type of electrifying player that really makes this offense go. The Titans were able to dismiss the disappointing Chris Brown and troubles Travis Henry when they took the East Carolina product 24th overall. He's got the blazing speed to make people pay on the edges and is the perfect complement to White's bursts up the middle. Even more important, Johnson's 337 yards - second-best in the AFC - are a huge reason the Titans can manage games and let their defense take over.

Defensive - Haynesworth is an absolute animal and is the keystone to Tennessee's punishing defensive front. The 6-foot-6, 320-pounder is athletic and agile, but has the power to immediately reset the line of scrimmage. Haynesworth is so disruptive, he already has five sacks on the season, the NFL's second most.

Emerging Star

Johnson is the obvious and easy pick, especially after he was recently named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for September. In addition to his 337 rushing yards, Johnson also has 65 receiving yards. The total of 402 combined yards from scrimmage place him second in the AFC and 13th in the NFL.

Key Matchups

Ravens DBs vs. Titans QB Kerry Collins

Collins might not be the improvising playmaker that Young is, but the erstwhile veteran has obviously shown he can get the job done. The Ravens will be bringing the heat with their tenacious pass rush, but they also expect Tennessee to use a variety of roll-outs to buy Collins some time. It will fall on the secondary to do a good job of coverage and perhaps bait Collins into throwing interceptions, something he doesn't normally do.

Ravens LG Ben Grubbs and C Jason Brown vs. Titans LDT Albert Haynesworth

Grubbs has been very solid this year, but Haynesworth will be a huge test, literally. At 6-foot-3, 315 pounds, Grubbs doesn't give up a lot in size, and Brown weighs in at 330 pounds. However, Haynesworth can collapse one side of a line with his strength and determination. It's going to be an epic battle in the trenches.

Quotable

Fisher on the importance of DT Albert Haynesworth:

"When he's on the field, which has been a lot lately, he's been disruptive. He's, I think, much better at rushing the passer, can create some matchups. He's been versatile for us. We've been able to line him up sometimes at end or tackle. On early downs he's playing the run well. He's a force in there, and he's getting better each week. You know he had a hamstring [injury] at camp, or a hamstring last year, but had some issues. [He] missed some time at camp, but he's coming on and he's a good player. We're just glad to have him in there."

Collins on the Titans' 4-0 start:

"I think, first of all, I think we've played smart football. We haven't turned it over a whole lot. I think that's helped us out in a lot of games. I think we've been able to capitalize on some opportunities, especially in the red zone. Our red-zone offense this year is much better than it was last year. I think, obviously, we're built to run the ball and do things off of that in the passing game. So, we've been able to run that. I think our offensive line is playing real well. I think our skill guys are certainly capable of making plays. And, our defense is playing great, and really brought home the last couple of games for us, and really played great in all four of our wins."

Duff's Take

What's not to like about a classic Titans - Ravens rival game? And this game is such an interesting matchup, with two of the league's most-dominating defenses going against young offenses predicated on the run.

The biggest difference might be that the Ravens have a rookie head coach in John Harbaugh, while Fisher is the elder statesman.

So, it's not difficult to see what Baltimore must do to come out on top at M&T. First and foremost, stopping the run is critical. White hasn't practiced all week with a shoulder issue, and everyone saw what Ray Lewis did to Pittsburgh's Rashard Mendenhall last Monday - if you didn't, Lewis ended the running back's season by breaking his shoulder with a vicious hit. It will be interesting to see if White hesitates heading into the pile with No. 52 ready to meet him. Johnson should get the bulk of carries, so sound fundamentals on the edges will be key for containment.

Offensively, the Ravens' line is going to power the engine. The unit faces perhaps its toughest challenge with Haynesworth and Co. But, after a week to correct the mistakes of the Steelers' five-sack performance, Jason Brown, Ben Grubbs, Marshal Yanda, Adam Terry and Jared Gaither will undoubtedly be dialed in.

If the line can push back Tennessee's assault up front, it will make rookie quarterback Joe Flacco's day much better. Not only will he have more time to pick apart a talented secondary, but running the ball can take time off the clock and keep potential interceptions to a minimum.

Ed. note: These aren't necessarily the beliefs of the Ravens organization.

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