NFL Divisional Round Picks: Tennessee vs. Baltimore
The second of two games on Divisional Round Saturday in the NFL playoffs features the sixth-seeded Tennessee Titans visiting the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens with a kickoff of 8:15 p.m. ET. This is the first time in the current playoff format (instituted in 1990) that the Ravens earned the AFC's top seed. That's a bit surprising considering they have won two Super Bowls this century. Incidentally, the Ravens are the only franchise with at least two Super Bowl appearances and no losses.
The entire NFL world is very curious how Lamar Jackson, the sure-fire NFL MVP, will play in his second postseason. Jackson was considered a big question mark the last time he took the field in a playoff game. In a home Wild-Card game last January, the Jackson-led Ravens offense was utterly anemic for three quarters in a 23-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Jackson finished with OK numbers overall but those all came in garbage time when his team was down 23-3 midway through the fourth quarter. He had 25 yards passing through three quarters.
Some NFL scouts wonder if seeing Jackson and this very unusual run-heavy offense schemed by Greg Roman a second time is the key to stopping it (that second time won't be the case here, though). Jackson had played much better when he faced the Chargers in Week 16 of the 2018 regular season, but the Bolts seemed to have him figured out in that playoff game.
If this were the 1980s or 90s, there would be no questions about whether such a run-dominant offense could win a Super Bowl. The Ravens led the NFL with 3,296 rushing yards in 2019 and surpassed the 1978 Patriots (3,165) for the most rushing yards by a team in a single season in NFL history. Jackson set the league rushing record for a quarterback with 1,206 yards. That's not to say Jackson is a slouch throwing the ball as he led the NFL with 36 TD passes.
Tennessee is +1000 to win the AFC title and +2000 for the Super Bowl . Baltimore is favored on both at -125 and +200, respectively.
Titans at Ravens Betting Story Lines
Is the New England Patriots' dynasty dead? And who better to kill it than Titans head coach and former beloved Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel? I didn't give the Titans a great chance of winning last weekend in Foxboro because I didn't trust Ryan Tannehill against that top-rated New England defense. Yet win they did, 20-13.
If you had told me Tannehill was going to complete just eight passes for 72 yards with a touchdown and pick, well, I'd expect the Patriots won by double digits. However, they couldn't stop the tank that is NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry, who gashed Bill Belichick's defense for 182 yards and a score on 34 carries. Those were the most rushing yards against a Belichick-coached Patriots defense in the playoffs. Tennessee has an underrated defense and made Tom Brady look ordinary. His last pass as a Patriot might be a pick-six by Logan Ryan that clinched the game in the final seconds.
No question that Henry will be the key again Saturday to chew clock and keep Jackson off the field. The Ravens allowed 93.4 yards on the ground this season, one spot better than the Patriots (95.5). Tennessee, meanwhile, gave up 104.5 yards on the ground. That unit's coordinator is Dean Pees, who used to be in the same role with Baltimore. The Ravens led the NFL in scoring at 33.2 points per game. Roman might get the Cleveland Browns head coaching job now that Dallas and Carolina have been filled.
The Ravens had a league-high five first-team All Pro members in Jackson, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters (he was a terrific midseason acquisition for a song from the Rams) and kicker Justin Tucker. Obviously if Baltimore wins, it hosts the AFC title game. The Titans would go to either Kansas City or Houston.
Titans at Ravens Betting Odds and Trends
Baltimore is a 10-point favorite (+110) with a total of 47. On the moneyline, the Ravens are -415 and Titans +333. On some alternate lines, the Ravens are -10.5 (+125), -11 (+133), -7 (-150) and -6.5 (-173). Tennessee is 6-3 against the spread on the road and 5-4 "over/under." Baltimore is 4-4 ATS at home and 4-4 O/U.
The Titans are 6-1-1 ATS in their past eight vs. the AFC. They are 4-1 ATS in their previous five after a win. The Ravens have covered seven straight vs the AFC. They are 7-1 ATS in their past eight playoff games but 1-4 ATS in their past five postseason home games. The under is 6-1 in Tennessee's past seven playoff games. It's 6-0 in Baltimore's previous six as a playoff favorite. The Titans are 1-3-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 5-0-1 in the previous six in Baltimore.
Titans at Ravens Betting Prediction
It's the fourth all-time playoff meeting between the franchises and first since January 2009. They played in the 2018 regular season in Nashville and the Ravens won 21-0 when Joe Flacco and Marcus Mariota were the starting quarterbacks. Mariota was beaten to a pulp, sacked 11 times - a Ravens franchise record. The league mark is 12 in a game. Baltimore outgained Tennessee 361-106 and punted just once. It was the first time the Titans had been shut out at Nissan Stadium.
Looks to be unseasonably warm in Baltimore on Saturday, although it could rain. We'll take the Titans for a backdoor cover, losing by a touchdown. Something like 26-19. I'll take the 10.5-point alternate line to be safe and go under the total.
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