NASHVILLE -- The Titans face the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC Divisional Round playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday night in Baltimore, Maryland.
Here's a look at six things to watch:
Riding Derrick Henry's Momentum
Running back Derrick Henry has been ridiculously good for the Titans, especially of late. Case in point: In the last seven games Henry has played, including last week's playoff game win over the Patriots, Henry has six-100 yard games and an NFL-high 1,078 yards and 11 touchdowns. That's an average of 154.0 rushing yards per game over those seven contests. Things won't be easy vs the Ravens, who are ranked fifth in the NFL vs the run, allowing just 93.4 yards per contest. Reasons for optimism: The Titans are rolling in the run game, and the Ravens finished the season ranked just 21st in the NFL in rushing yards per play (4.39 ypc).
Slowing Down Lamar
Speaking of crazy good, well, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson fits this description as well. The Ravens broke the NFL's single-season record with 3,296 rushing yards in 2019, including 1,206 from Jackson, the most single-season yards by a quarterback in NFL history. On top of that, Jackson threw for 3,127 yards with 36 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Let's give credit where credit is due – Jackson has had a heck of a season. On Saturday night, the Titans will do everything they can to make life tough on Jackson. They'll need to get him on the ground and keep him from busting off big plays. How well the Titans do vs. Jackson will go a long way in determining Tennessee's playoff fate. We'll get some hints early: Baltimore has outscored its opponents a whopping 128-31 in the first quarter of games this season.
If someone would have told me the Titans would win at New England with quarterback Ryan Tannehill throwing for just 72 yards, I would've said "no way." But it happened. Chances are, the Titans will need more from the passing game against the Ravens. Casual observers probably watched the Wild Card game and concluded the Titans weren't much a threat in the passing game, but that's not true. After taking over in Week 7, Tannehill accounted for 26 total TDs — 22 through the air and 4 on the ground -- which tied Saints QB Drew Brees (25 pass, one run) for the 2nd most in that span and trailed only the previously mentioned Jackson (30 TDs - 25 pass, 5 run). In his second playoff game, how much more of an impact will Tannehill make?
Titans Targets vs Ravens Secondary
Against the Patriots, tight end Anthony Firkser led the team with two catches for 23 yards, and a score. Receiver A.J. Brown was targeted just once (1 catch, 4 yards), receiver Corey Davis didn't have a catch on two targets, and receiver Tajae Sharpe had just one catch for six yards. The challenge is a big one against a Ravens defense that's ranked fourth in the NFL, with three Pro Bowlers on the back end in cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey and safety Earl Thomas. But the Titans will need to make plays downfield in this one. Don't forget about tight end Jonnu Smith, who has been a weapon himself all season.
Five Heisman Trophy Winners
I've covered the NFL a long time, and I don't know if I've ever seen this: Five Heisman Trophy winners, all in one game. On Saturday night, five of the last 11 winners of college football's top honor will be present at M&T Bank Stadium. Some will make more of a difference than others, and there's a chance some won't play at all. The five include Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, Titans RB Derrick Henry, Ravens RB Mark Ingram, Titans QB Marcus Mariota, and Ravens QB Robert Griffin III. The Titans have used Mariota a handful of plays during the past two games. Will he be in the mix again vs the Ravens? Stay tuned.
Younger Titans fans might not remember the strong dislike between these two teams. I've covered the Titans since the 1999 season, and I contend the rivalry with the Ravens in the 2000s was the fiercest the team has ever had in Nashville. The Titans won in Baltimore in the 2003 season's playoffs on a night Eddie George ran through Ray Lewis on a memorable sideline play, and Gary Anderson kicked the game-winning field goal. But the Ravens knocked off the Titans twice when they were the AFC's No.1 seed – in 2000, and 2008. Both of those Tennessee teams were capable of winning the Super Bowl. Can the Titans return the favor against the top-seeded Ravens on Saturday night? Well, we're about to find out. An interesting nugget: The Titans and Ravens have faced one another three times in the postseason, and the road team has won each time.
Gary Anderson nails a game-winning 46-yard field goal with 33 seconds left to lift Tennessee past Baltimore 20-17 in an AFC Wild Card game on Jan. 3, 2004 at M&T Bank Stadium.