BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans approach the game on offense in a similar fashion. Each is built around a punishing ground game designed to suck in opposing linebackers and safeties before beating them over the top with big pass plays off of play-action.
The specifics of how each team goes about doing that vary. With the Titans, it’s built around the powerful running of Derrick Henry, who gets stronger as the game goes on and opponents tire of tackling him. With the Ravens, of course, it’s built around a rushing attack that features the dazzling elusive abilities of quarterback Lamar Jackson and the punishing, straight-ahead style of running backs Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards. But, in essence, their is a similar philosophy underlying the teams’ respective attacks: establish the run, beat the opponent with play-action.
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“Both teams incredibly hot and great at getting you to the window cashing those tickets. The Ravens have covered nine of their last 10. They’re 7-0 in their last seven against the spread against AFC opponents,” said Hartstein. “Tennessee four straight road games, 8-3 with Tannehill. They could have even won two of those games where they out-gained their opponent and lost. Both teams offer a lot to like here.”
Entering Saturday’s prime-time contest, the Ravens are favored by anywhere between nine and 10 points. One of the big reasons for that gap has been the improved play of the Ravens defense in combination with its unstoppable nature on offense. Since some early struggles against the Chiefs and Browns, the Ravens have not allowed an opponent to surpass the league average of 350 yards in a game. The run defense has been particularly strong, giving up just 93.4 yards per game. However, they have allowed opponents about 4.4 yards per carry, and against a back like Derrick Henry, that could be a problem.
Henry has compiled 393 yards on 66 carries (5.9 YPC) in the Titans last two games. As mentioned above, he tends to get better as the game wears on, doing his best work in the third quarter. But Hartstein points out a big factor that the Ravens have in their favor: rest.
“Baltimore is so rested on defense. You don’t worry about the rust as much on defense. These guys are rested, they are fresh,” said Hartstein. “I think he’s going to have a good game, you don’t stop Derrick Henry, but I don’t think he’s going 200. Maybe 100 yards or so.”
On the other side, Hartstein sees a bigger issue for the Titans, and it’s the same one that has stumped defensive coordinators all season. How does one stop the Ravens offense and Lamar Jackson?
“Maybe they hope the Ravens are rusty. It’s been three weeks since Lamar Jackson and the rest of these key playmakers have had a meaningful snap. That could be a factor,” said Hartstein before pointing out the Titans struggles against the run. “Tennessee very mediocre defensively, 4.5 yards per carry allowed last week to New England. They’ll be lucky to stop Baltimore, to keep Baltimore to that kind of number.”
On the season, the Titans were better stopping the run, allowing just four yards per carry. And, running back Mark Ingram’s status is still up in the air, as he missed practice Tuesday with a calf injury. Still, the the FiveThirtyEight prediction model gives Harbaugh’s crew an 87% win probability this weekend. The Ravens and Titans kick off the second game of Saturday’s playoff action at 8:15 p.m. EST on CBS.
You can watch the Ravens face the Titans at 8:15 p.m. Saturday on WJZ.
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