Tennessee Titans vs. Baltimore Ravens Playoff Primer
January 5, 2009 by AlexV
In this week, the Divisional Playoff Round of the NFL, hearts are truly broken. In my mind, there is nothing more embarrassing than being a bye team and losing your first game. It is almost as if all the good your team did was all-for-not, and similarly, for the road team, it means you were only good enough to win in the Wild Card round. The first game of Divisional Round weekend will feature the Baltimore Ravens attempting to go down to Tennessee to pull off a huge road victory.
Once again, the Ravens Defense will be the phase of their game to rely on; 3rd in the league in points allowed (15.2), 2nd in yards (261.1ypg), 2nd in passing (179.7ypg), and 3rd against the run (81.4ypg). The stinginess of their defense showed up profusely in their Saturday victory in Miami against the Dolphins as they forced Chad Pennington into throwing four interceptions, when he had only seven up until that point. On top of that, they also forced a fumble which they recovered.
What is even more is they rank higher in almost every major category defensively than the Titans; 7th in yards (293.6ypg), 9th in passing (199.8ypg), and 6th against the run (93.9ypg). The Titans beat them in points per game at 14.6, but that is only for a difference of 0.6 points.
Aside from the Ravens defense, the performance of Joe Flacco in his first ever playoff game should pay huge dividends for Baltimore as he now goes into his second. In that game, his numbers were far from solid; 9-23 with 135 yards. That was only good for a slunky 39% completion. But if there are any underlying factors in his performance, it was obviously the fact he committed no turnovers, and amazingly, averaged 15.0 yards per completion. What this suggests was that when he actually did find the right target, it was a big play.
He already had the one playoff game where he saw his defense carry him. Now he knows if he can just step it up a bit, and with his defense playing like it can, that his team is in prime position for success.
The difference between the Miami pass defense (25th at 227.8ypg) and the Tennessee pass defense (9th at 199.8ypg) is 16 spots in the rankings. If Joe Flacco cannot increase his completion percentage, and is forced to throw the ball more against the Titans solid rushing defense, then the Ravens could be in for a long day. Maybe even the type that sees Flacco performing somewhat like Pennington did.
After that, Kerry Collins threw seven interceptions on the season, ass opposed to Flacco’s 12. But sadly, that seems to be the only advantage that the Titans could have over the Ravens. And too bad for them Joe Flacco hasn’t been prone to throwing games away this season. Oh… and we also saw what happened to the last quarterback the Ravens faced who only three seven regular season INTs.
We already know that the Ravens have better defense. But what is even more is the fact that their offense isn’t too far off either. In total yards per game the Ravens are 18th at 324, and the Titans 21st at 313.6. Although the Titans are 27th passing (172.6), versus the Ravens 28th ranking (175.5), it is for a difference of 0.7 yards making them virtually equal in that aspect. The real kicker comes in the Ravens 4th ranked rush offense at 148.5 yards per game against the Titan’s 7th place ranking at 137.4 yards per game. The Ravens, as a matter of fact, even score more points per game with 24.1, against the Titans, 23.4. However, that points per game number is also for a mere difference of 0.7.
The real deciding factor offensively is going to be the Ravens stronger running game, and better play-making defensively. I also predict another deciding factor to be the performance of young Joe Flacco against that of old Kerry Collins. Their stat lines, although similar, are leaving one thing out. Where as last week I mentioned the experience of Kurt Warner would take over that of Matt Ryan’s, this week it will be the youth of Flacco over Collins. Warner is still a dynamic quarterback. Whereas Flacco and Collins roles in their team’s offenses is to manage the game and not turn the ball over, for Flacco it is more to help ease his transition as a rookie quarterback, and for Collins it is because he is on the downside of his career.
But aside from all this, the most telling stat is the following. The combined records of the Tennessee Titans regular season opponents was 92-115, and the Ravens was 123-94. This just tells me that the Ravens have been having their mettle tested a lot more often than the surprising Titans up to this point.
Ravens move to within one victory of the Super Bowl.