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Who Ravens Fans Should Root for in Divisional Playoffs


The Ravens spent the last week preparing for three possibilities. They'll either face the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills or Tennessee Titans in the divisional playoffs.

If the Tennessee Titans beat the New England Patriots (8:15 p.m.), the Ravens will take on the Titans. If the Patriots win, Baltimore will face the winner of the Houston Texans vs. Buffalo Bills (4:35 p.m.).

It's tough to say who is the "best" matchup for the Ravens. There are many factors involved, and any team in the playoffs is a dangerous team.

Here's a look at each team, their strengths and weakness, and how they fared against Baltimore:

No. 3 New England Patriots

Record: 12-4

Strengths: Tom Brady. Bill Belichick. Six Super Bowls. Need we say more? The Patriots almost always find a way to reach the Super Bowl, no matter what deficiencies they appear to have. The Patriots still finished the season with the league's No. 1 defense (275.9 yards per game). Their offense has struggled for large parts of the year, but it takes some courage to bet against Brady in the playoffs.

Weaknesses: The Patriots have lost three of their final five games, including to the Miami Dolphins in the regular-season finale, which cost New England a bye. The Patriots offense ranked 15th in the league because it has been inconsistent running the ball and lacked vertical weapons. Brady's 88.0 quarterback rating was his second-lowest mark since 2008.

vs. Baltimore: The Ravens can't face the Patriots in the divisional round, but could still see them in the AFC Championship. A New England win this weekend sets up a juicy divisional matchup in Kansas City. The Ravens handed New England a 37-20 loss in Week 9.

No. 4 Houston Texans

Record: 10-6

Strengths: Deshaun Watson was an MVP candidate for much of the season. DeAndre Hopkins is one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the game (1,165 yards, seven touchdowns). Houston can run the ball well (ninth in the league). With that kind of offensive firepower, they can explode at any time.

Weaknesses: Watson didn't play his best football down the stretch. He threw three touchdowns to five interceptions over his last three games. The Texans' defense was ranked 27th in the NFL this year, but will get defensive end J.J. Watt back for the playoffs.

vs. Baltimore: The Ravens dealt Houston a 41-7 blowout in Week 11. Baltimore's defense totally bottled up Watson, holding him to 18-of-29 passing for 169 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception with six sacks. After getting off to a slow start, Lamar Jackson threw four touchdowns.

No. 5 Buffalo Bills

Record: (10-6)

Strengths: You know what they say – pack a defense and a good ground game and you can go places in the playoffs. Buffalo has the NFL's third-ranked defense with a group of high-hustle players and strong secondary, and the NFL's No. 8-ranked rushing attack behind rookie Devin Singletary and quarterback Josh Allen. Allen can be a little streaky, but he has the talent to make any thrown and pick up yards with his legs if needed.

Weaknesses: The Bills lost three of their last four games and scored just one win over a team in this year's playoffs (Week 5 vs. Tennessee). Their passing offense ranked near the bottom of the league despite Allen's improvement in his sophomore season. He finished with 3,089 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions and fumbled 14 times.

vs. Baltimore: The Ravens beat the Bills, 24-17, in Week 14 in Buffalo, but it was a tightly contested game. The Bills defense bottled up Jackson better than any other team, holding him to 145 passing yards (still three touchdowns) and just 40 rushing yards on 11 carries. Windy conditions made it hard on both teams' passing attacks, and Allen missed some big throws to open receivers early.

No. 6 Tennessee Titans

Record: (9-7)

Strengths: Bulldozing running back Derrick Henry finished as the NFL's top rusher (1,540 yards). But the bigger catalyst has been veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who took over as the starter midway through the year and finished with the NFL's top quarterback grade from Pro Football Focus. After seven years in Miami, Tannehill had the best season of his eight-year career in Tennessee, throwing 22 touchdowns to just six interceptions and running for another four scores. The Titans are hot, winning five of their last seven games.

Weaknesses: Besides running the ball, the Titans don't really hang their hat on anything. Their defense finished in the bottom half of the league. They had two wins over playoffs teams – one very impressive one against the Kansas City Chiefs and another in a Week 17 game against the Texans in which Houston didn't play its starters.

vs. Ravens: The Titans are the AFC's only playoff team that didn't face Baltimore this season. That could be an advantage to the Ravens, who have an offense that's very difficult to prepare for in a week and quarterback the Titans have never faced.

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