They will host the Baltimore Ravens next Saturday (Jan. 10) in an AFC Divisional matchup at LP Field (3:30 p.m., CT). Baltimore earned the trip to Nashville with a 27-9 victory at Miami in Sunday's AFC Wild Card Game. The two teams squared off earlier this season in Baltimore with Tennessee coming back to post a 13-10 victory on a late touchdown pass from Kerry Collins to Alge Crumpler.
Veteran QB Kerry Collins and the Tennessee Titans get a rematch with the Ravens on Saturday at LP Field.
"Now that we know our opponent, we have a tremendous challenge ahead of us," Titans head coach Jeff Fisher said Sunday. "Baltimore has improved in all areas since we saw them earlier this season. They are built around a strong run game and a great defense, which reminds us of the classic matchups against them in the past."
Titans fans well remember when Baltimore came to Nashville in Jan. of 2001 and stole a 24-10 victory over the top-seeded Titans in the AFC divisional round. Tennessee returned the favor three years later, claiming a 20-17 Wild Card Playoff win on a late field goal by Gary Anderson in Baltimore.
The fierce rivalry dates back to when both teams were aligned in the AFC Central and played each other twice each season. Over the years, fans of both teams have witnessed classic matchups between Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and Titans greats Eddie George and Steve McNair. The rivalry took a strange twist when Derrick Mason, Samari Rolle and McNair departed for Baltimore during Tennessee's salary cap upheaval a few years ago.
Next week's game will mark the Titans' first home playoff game since the 2002 season when they knocked off the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game in Nashville.
They locked up the AFC South in Week 14 of the regular season with a victory over the Cleveland Browns, capturing their first division title since 2002 and the ninth in the 49-year history of the club. They gained the AFC's top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with an impressive Week 16 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now the Titans face the prospect of winning just two more games to make it to Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Fla. Before that happens, they'll have to get past Baltimore's stout defense led by Pro Bowlers Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
"It's exciting that we're in the position we're in. We've worked hard to get here and it's important for all of us to take advantage of it, knowing that these opportunities don't come along every year," said Kerry Collins, who can become the first quarterback in NFL history with at least one postseason win with three different teams. "I've been in this situation before with the Panthers and Giants and obviously, the finality of it is very real. The speed gets ramped up a little bit and you have to be ready for your opponent's best shot."
Veteran linebacker Keith Bulluck, a member of the team that lost to Baltimore in the 2000 playoffs, said everyone needs to approach this opportunity like it's their last.
"It could be, so that's why in all reality you have to approach it that way," he said. "Dan Marino went to the Super Bowl as a rookie and never got back, never even sniffed it again."
But Bulluck said this year's team is deeper and more mature than last year's squad that lost 17-6 in a Wild Card Game at San Diego.
"We have players in key positions contributing a little bit more. I think we have a lot of depth and overall we have a better team," Bulluck said. "By getting to that Wild Card game last year and just missing out the year before, guys who have been here know how hard it is to get there and how quickly it can be over. That's in the back of everybody's minds, but a the same time, we have a good core of veteran guys that have played in some pretty big football games in this league that should be able to keep everybody together."
Veteran safety Chris Hope is one of those players, having captured Super Bowl XL with the Pittsburgh Steelers three years ago.
"You have to realize that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You have guys like Kevin Mawae, Junior Seau and other great football players that have never had the chance to win a Super Bowl or even play in it," Hope said. "Some teams never even make the playoffs, so you have to look at it from that perspective and go out every day and play like it's your last time playing, taking nothing for granted."