Last weekend, the NFL playoffs threw a number of people for a loop. Three of four road teams won. The Titans pulled an upset that many saw coming and Tennessee will look to do it again in Baltimore on Saturday night. It will not be easy. In fact, it might not be possible at all.
In the grand scheme of things, Tennessee’s win as a No. 6 seed is remarkable. The Titans beat a Patriots team that had been to the last eight straight AFC championship games.
Despite going 4-4 over the second half of the regular season, New England was still the same dynasty that won two of the last three Super Bowls. Tennessee gave New England a heavy dose of RB Derrick Henry (182 yards rushing) and shut down a rather mundane Patriots offense for the win.
The win is notable since it was the eighth victory by a No. 6 seed in the AFC or NFC playoffs since 2013. No. 6 seeds are 8-4 in that time span. Here’s the thing though. None of those eight teams won their next game.
Tennessee’s next opponent is, of course, No. 1 seed Baltimore.
The Ravens have the highest-scoring offense in the NFL led by the likely league MVP in QB Lamar Jackson. The second-year pro became the first player in NFL history to throw for over 3,000 yards and rush for over 1,000. Jackson set the NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season with 1,206. He also accounted for 43 touchdowns.
While Jackson gets most of the hype, he’s not the only piece in the Ravens’ puzzle. RB Mark Ingram is back and healthy after sitting out Week 17 as is TE Mark Andrews, the team’s leading receiver.
Baltimore is not just about Jackson and the offense either. Too many forget that the Ravens are extremely good on defense.
Baltimore was third in the league in scoring defense, holding opponents to 17.6 points per game. The Ravens ranked fourth in total defense (300.6 ypg), fifth against the run (93.4) and sixth against the pass (207.2). Over the final three weeks of the regular season, Baltimore held its opponents to an average of just 156 passing yards a game.
This is notable since Tennessee QB Ryan Tannehill was virtually off the charts since taking over the starting job. With Henry running all over the place last week, Tannehill only attempted 15 passes. Does Coach Rick really trust Tannehill to overcome the Baltimore defense?
Well, here’s the big stat and the one that could prove to be the difference on Saturday.
Baltimore ranked third in red zone defense allowing teams touchdowns only 47.7 percent of the time they entered the crucial area of the field. Yes, I know that Tennessee ranked first in red zone efficiency on offense, but…Jackson or Tannehill?
If the future MVP isn’t enough for you, how about this? The Ravens are 9-1 ATS in their last 10 games and they are 7-0 ATS in their last seven games against AFC opponents. Ten points too much to lay for you? The Ravens won nine games by more than nine points this season. They can handle it.
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.