By Ron Wynn
Now that they’ve managed to give all their fans heart attacks in the process of winning the AFC South for the first time since 2008, the Tennessee Titans turn their attention to the Baltimore Ravens this weekend as part of the NFL’s two-day, wild card tripleheader. They survived blowing a second half double-digit lead and outlasted the Houston Texans 41-38 Sunday to clinch the title and a home playoff game. It will be a continuation of a tense rivalry that once featured Eddie George going against Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and company. Now the Titans are facing last year’s MVP Lamar Jackson, who is coming into the game once again playing at his peak.
The Titans edged the Ravens earlier this season 30-24 in overtime. Since that happened, the Ravens closed the season on a five-game winning streak, averaging over 37 points a game. Jackson has reignited the bulldozing rushing attack, and the Ravens’ defense also has solidified, and is playing much better.
For Tennessee, everything revolves around one of the NFL’s most potent offenses. A 250 yard, two touchdown game gave Derrick Henry a milestone 2,000 yard rushing season, making him only the eighth player in NFL history to reach that goal. The Titans are the only NFL franchise with two players to achieve that feat, as Chris Johnson previously had a 2,000 yard season in 2006. Henry’s also the first player to have both 200 yards rushing and two touchdowns in a game three times in a season. He won the NFL’s rushing triple crown, leading running backs in yards, touchdowns and carries.
The Titans have two prominent receivers in A.J. Brown and Corey Davis, who narrowly missed being one of the few duos to each have 1,000 yards in receptions. Ryan Tannehill had another strong season, and over the last two games has also emerged as a rushing threat. The Titans did not have kicker Steve Gostowski available for Sunday’s game due to COVID-19 restrictions. The game winning kick was made by rookie Steve Sloman, formerly with the LA Rams.
However the Titans’ big question mark remains their defense. It was at or near the bottom in almost every major category this season, especially in QB sacks. They absolutely must get pressure on Jackson, while also finding a way to get stops and prevent the Ravens from dominating time of possession. An additional factor is Jackson has been criticized for failure to get the Ravens out of the playoffs. He’ll most certainly want to change that, while the Titans look to duplicate the momentum from last season that got them into the AFC title game.