The Tennessee Titans will look to take the next step towards achieving their preseason goal of making it to Super Bowl LV when they host the Baltimore Ravens at Nissan Stadium during Wild Card Weekend.
The Ravens no doubt have revenge on their minds, as not only did the Titans unexpectedly knock them out of the playoffs last year, but Tennessee also secured another win over them in Week 11 of the regular season.
Baltimore comes into this contest as one of the hottest teams in the NFL after finishing out the regular season with five straight wins. Meanwhile, the Titans enter this game having won three of their last four.
Despite a history of teams with bad defenses making runs to the Super Bowl, there is quite a bit of pessimism surrounding this year’s Titans because of their lackluster defense.
That is just one cause for concern for the Titans ahead of their wild-card matchup with the Ravens.
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No matter the opponent, the Titans' defense is a concern and it will likely be the deciding factor in how far this team goes in the playoffs. Here's a look at where Tennessee's defense ranked in per-game averages during the 2020 regular season: Points allowed: 24th (27.4) Passing yards allowed: 29th (277.4) Rushing yards allowed: 19th (120.8) Adding to that, the Titans finished with just 19 sacks, the third-fewest in the NFL and tied for the fewest by a playoff team in a 16-game season in NFL history. So, that means that one of the biggest weaknesses the Titans had coming into this season is even worse than it was last year. https://twitter.com/NFL_DougFarrar/status/1347537495118860292 There was some hope that the return of Adoree' Jackson would be a shot in the arm for this defense but that has not been the case, as evidenced by Tennessee giving up an average of 34.3 points per game since his return in Week 15. The Titans' best chance of slowing down the Ravens' offense will be to force quarterback Lamar Jackson to beat them with his arm, but that might not even be enough if Tennessee's horrid coverage continues.
Ravens' rushing attack
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As good as the Titans were on the ground this season, the Ravens were even better. Baltimore and Tennessee finished with the No. 1 and No. 2 rushing attacks in the NFL, respectively, but the Ravens were tops by a pretty wide margin, finishing with 191.9 rushing yards per contest as compared to the Titans' 168.1. The biggest reason for the Ravens' success was quarterback Lamar Jackson, who broke the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season. Tennessee will also have to contend with running backs J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram, all of whom combined for 1,827 yards. The Titans already have their hands full by default thanks to their putrid pass defense, but that issue will be even harder to overcome with Tennessee having to focus on the Ravens' elite ground game.
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
When these two teams last met in Week 11, the Ravens were missing a pair of key defenders upfront in defensive end Calais Campbell and defensive tackle Brandon Williams. Both of those players will be active for this game and will provide a boost both in the pass rush and against the run for Baltimore's defense, which finished second in the NFL in points allowed per game (18.9). There's no question that getting Derrick Henry going and Ryan Tannehill's success feeding off of Henry en route to scoring a lot of points will be paramount in Tennessee winning this game, but that will be no easy task.
A slow start
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The Titans have become notorious for getting off to slow starts this season, whether it's on offense, defense, or both. Tennessee can afford neither in this game, as the Ravens' offense is too good and the Titans' defense is too bad for this team to climb out of an early hole. A word of advice for the Titans: take the ball first if possible and at least try to allow your best asset, the offense, to get going early on. We can already assume the defense won't be able to do the same if the Titans don't receive first.