On Saturday night when the top seeded Ravens host the Wild Card winning Titans it will mark the fourth time that these franchises have met in the post-season. Before the league realigned the divisions in 2002, the Ravens and Titans were hated rivals in the AFC Central. The two teams played three times during the 2000 season, with Baltimore winning the last two meetings on the road, including a regular season thriller and a memorable Ray Lewis playoff performance. During the 2003 season Tennessee obtained a measure of revenge winning 20-17 on the strength of a Gary Anderson Field Goal. In 2008, the Titans held the top spot, while the Ravens were the sixth seed, a reverse of what we’ll see in a few days. In another hard fought game Baltimore proved its road warrior mentality once again as Matt Stover booted the game-winner to knock off Tennessee once more.
So what does any of this have to do with Saturday night’s match-up?
Lamar Jackson was 11 years old the last time these teams met in the playoffs.
With that in mind, let’s press on and talk about what to look for as the Ravens make a hopeful dash to Miami.
- Lamar– The sure fire NFL MVP has been a revelation this season beating teams with his legs and his arm. He isn’t the first of the “mobile quarterbacks” to take the league by storm though but I hardly think its fair to lump him in with Michael Vick, Cam Newton and his backup Robert Griffin III. Each of those players had unique skills as rushers that defenses had to contend with. Right now Jackson is in his own category. He can make defenders miss and make world-class athletes look foolish. He can outrun anyone on the field. Even though he lacks size he’s shown a willingness to run inside if the situation calls for it. Defenses have tried a variety of schemes and tactics to slow Greg Roman’s offense and while at times some have slowed him none has been able to stop him. Currently there doesn’t appear to be a scheme to contain his talent and that’s a huge advantage heading into the post-season.
- National Favorites– Oddsmakers have the team at a 32% chance to hoist the Lombardi at the conclusion of this season. They are predicted to win the AFC by almost 50%. For long-time fans of the team this is unheard of. Traditionally the team has been a scrappy Wild Card team who beats the odds and proves the pundits wrong. They used terms like “overlooked” and “disrespected” to fuel the competitive fires against their opponents. Not anymore. They enjoyed a first-round bye for only the second time in club history and had never been the top seed until this season. Their status has been well earned as they endured a tough schedule and enter as battle tested as any club. So what happens if they don’t at least make it to the final game? Will the season be a huge letdown? Let’s not go there just yet. Enjoy the ride and see where this takes us.
- Who to Watch– On offense Lamar Jackson is the obvious call here. He struggled mightily against the Chargers last year in his first playoff appearance with many fans openly calling for Joe Flacco. He’s ready to atone for that performance as he’s sparkled all season in Prime Time games. I suspect he has a big game. I’d also chose the Ravens top receiver – Mark Andrews to have a solid game. The Titans have struggled protecting the middle and have given up 9 touchdowns and a bit more than 900 yards to Tight Ends this year. Baltimore has an impressive stable of them. On defense stopping Derrick Henry is the main order of business. Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce will clog the middle but the real test will be off the tackles where Baltimore has been susceptible. Can Ferguson and Ward help set the edge and will Corners step up to lay hits on the league’s top rusher? Setting up Third and Long situations will be an important key in containing the beast.
Legend of the Game
Years as a Raven (2000)
He only played one season in purple but he made the most of it as it ended with the franchise’s first championship. In March of 2000 he signed with Baltimore to backup Tony Banks. After four weeks without scoring a touchdown Dilfer was inserted as the starter and never relinquished the job as the team would go undefeated with him under center. Many people consider him one of the worst quarterbacks to ever win a title. I agree that he was a game manager but I’ll never badmouth the guy. He made some throws in that magical season including the playoffs. He wasn’t elite, but he didn’t make costly mistakes, and was supported by a dominant defense. After the season he wasn’t resigned, making him the first Super Bowl winning signal caller to be let go the following season. Instead the team moved on to Elvis Grbac – which was lasted only one year as well.
This Saturday it seems appropriate that Dilfer will be honored as the “legend of the game” before kick-off.
Game-Time Song of the Week
“No plays off, always ready to attack
No fear in my heart, Charm City got my back
Big boy, no little boy- who wanna get smacked?
We coming for the ring, ain’t no turning back”
Another outstanding anthem and hype video from FREEstate workshop. This is another classic. Play it on continuous loop from now until 8:15 Saturday EST.
Game-Time Snack of the Week
The only logical choice.
Happy Football everyone! Go Ravens!