The first playoff match-up this weekend features two of the most physical teams in the NFL. Both teams have great running games and questionable passing games. These teams met in week 5, with the Titans barely winning a close game, 13-10. The Ravens will have revenge on their mind and I expect them to pull off the upset.
For the Ravens, rookie Joe Flacco has had an impressive rookie season and with his first playoff victory last week against Miami, he has proven he has what it takes to win in crunch time. The Ravens also feature one of the best running back tandems in the league with Le'Ron McClain and veteran Willis McGahee.
Their success hinges on their running game so it can set-up the short passing routes for Joe Flacco to control the clock. They have an underrated receiving core, with the veteran Derrick Mason and the much-improved Mark Clayton. Todd Heap can also make a big play when he needs to. Mason will look to step it up against his former team, so expect him to bring his A-game.
The Ravens feature one of the top defenses in the league that scares the day lights out of every team in the league. With veteran play-makers in Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, the Ravens can win any game with their defense.
For the Titans, they feature a great running-back tandem of their own, with rookie stud Chris Johnson and the powerful LenDale White. They have the old and reliable Kerry Collins at quarterback, who has had success in the playoffs with the Giants and Panthers and got the Titans to the post-season for the second straight season.
Collins will have revenge on his mind after getting thrashed by the Ravens in the 2000 Super Bowl with the Giants. The Titans don't have a great receiving core and that could hurt them, because they won't be able to run much against the Ravens "brick wall."
Expect the Titans to be forced to pass and throw to their reliable tight-end in Bo Scaife, and their top wide-receiver Justin Gage.
Prediction: BAL 17 TEN 14
Boom: Derrick Mason, Le'Ron McClain, Ravens defense
Derrick Mason will be hyped-up against the team he was with for so many years in the Titans. Mason was so close to winning the Super Bowl with the Titans when they lost by a yard against the Rams in 1999. Flacco is going to look his way quite a bit and with the Titans probably blitzing him almost every passing down, Mason will be his security blanket.
McClain has been the Ravens leading rusher all season and expect him to have a decent, but not great game. The Ravens defense always steps up and forced five turnovers on Miami last week. Expect them to deliver.
Predictions: Mason 7 catches 80 yds 1 td; McClain 60 rushing yds 1 td; Ravens defense: 4 sacks 2 ints 1 fumble 14 pa
The Titans defense has stepped-up big time this season and with a healthy Albert Haynesworth plugging the middle, they will be tough to score on. Flacco will make at least one mistake too. Prediction: 3 sacks 1 int 1 fumble 17 pa
Bust: LenDale White
Chris Johnson will be the featured running back, with White being primarily the goal-line back. I don't see the Titans having many scoring chances here so don't expect much from White.
Prediction: 40 rushing yds
I like Flacco, but I am scared of this match-up. If he can play mistake-free football, he'll be ok, but won't put up fantasy starter numbers. He's too much of a question mark and the Ravens will be running the ball most of the game.
Prediction: 175 passing yds 1 td 1 int
Sleepers: Mark Clayton and Bo Scaife
Clayton has become a nice compliment to Derrick Mason and has had some big games this season. I expect Clayton to be looked at often, considering how much attention Derrick Mason will get.
Bo Scaife took over for the washed-up Alge Crumpler early on and never looked back. Scaife was second on the team in receiving yards and led the team in catches. He'll provide Collins with a nice security-blanket.
Predictions: Clayton: 5 catches 70 yds; Scaife:6 catches 50 yds 1 td
This will be a fun game to watch to see which defense breaks first. Enjoy the game and good luck in the divisional round for fantasy playoffs!