Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Divisional Round Preview Baltimore @ Tennessee

What: An Epic Defensive Struggle
Who: The Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans
Where: LP Field, Nashville, Tennessee
When: Saturday at 4:30 PM EST
What Channel: CBS
Announcers: Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf
Announcers' Talking Point of the Game: Wait a minute, the Tennessee Titans were the last undefeated team in the NFL? We completely forgot about that. Oh, but aside from that, these two defenses are just so good we won't be surprised if it goes to Triple overtime with the score tied at 0.
Weather Forecast: Cloudy, 45 degrees
Regular Season Meeting: Titans 13, Ravens 10

For the second time in three years, it looks like Greg and Dan will get a very low scoring game in the playoffs involving the Baltimore Ravens (See Colts-Ravens a couple of years ago). This one, however, should be quite an entertaining game, especially seeing as there are obvious parallels with the two teams.

For starters, both teams improved upon their record from last year (the Ravens more so than the Titans, however both did improve). But just look at these teams, I honestly don't know where to start. Both teams have defenses that can be absolutely dominating. The Titans defense suffered from injuries toward the end of the year, however it does look like Kyle Vanden Bosch and Albert Haynesworth will be back in the line up this Saturday at LP Field. The Ravens' defense was lights out against the Dolphins last Sunday and what can I say about Ed Reed. The man is just a beast. Superman (and Tim Tebow) wear Ed Reed underwear.

Another similarity can be drawn by looking at both offenses. The biggest threat that the Ravens boast is their 3-headed monster rushing attack consisting of Willis McGahee, Le'Ron McClain, and Ray Rice, all of whom have rushed for over 500 yards this season. The Tennessee Titans also have a powerful rushing offense consisting of Chris Johnson, the rookie out of East Carolina who rushed for over 1,000 yards this year. And just as an aside on Johnson, I had not even heard of the man until I saw last year's Sheraton Hawaii Bowl pitting East Carolina against Boise State. And just by watching that game, I could tell that he was going to be something special in the NFL. And it looks like that (for once) I was right. Anyway, back to the match-up, Johnson has not had to do things on his own, as Lendale White, the back-up to Reggie Bush at USC averages 3.9 yards per carry himself and has proven to be a very valuable weapon in short-yardage situations.

And in yet, another similarity, both are led by a quarterback who have done just enough to get their team to where they are. Both Joe Flacco of the Ravens and Kerry Collins of the Titans have done just enough to manage the game, and rarely, if at all, have been the reason for the team's defeat in the games that they lost. But at the same token, neither has necessarily wowed anyone with their numbers and thus, even if there are quite a few injuries at QB for the AFC, it is unlikely that any of these two will be in the Pro Bowl. Where they differ is in experience. Kerry Collins started the year as a back-up to Superman himself, Vince Young (he has the Ed Reed undies as well), but due to the injury to VY week 1, Collins was forced to step in and the Titans have never looked back. The Ravens, desperate for someone other than Kyle Boller and unwilling to rely on little Troy Smith, drafted Joe Flacco out of Delaware, and he is just the man they needed. He stepped in as the starter in the beginning of the year, and he has not looked back either.

Prediction: While I am generally a bigger fan of offensive games as opposed to defensive games, this sure-to-be defensive game is going to be a dandy to say the least. I can appreciate a good defensive struggle when I see it and damn it to hell that I probably won't be able to catch it as I will most likely be spending the afternoon moving back to college for the upcoming semester. Oh well, I'll catch up on the good stuff by reading S2N's live blog at AA (assuming he's doing it) and then watching NFL Replay on the NFL-N if the game is even half as good as I think this one will be. Give me the Ravens avenging their Week 5 loss and upsetting the top-seeded Titans by a score of 16-13.

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