No. 5 BALTIMORE RAVENS @ No. 4 TENNESSEE TITANS FREE PICK
The top two rushing offenses in the NFL will square off on Wild Card weekend as the fifth-seeded Baltimore Ravens look to avenge two consecutive losses to the No. 4 Tennessee Titans. This could finally be the time reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson gets his first playoff win. There may not be a hotter team than Baltimore in the NFL right now.
With the visiting Ravens laying three points, whether they win or lose is not the issue for bettors. The issue is finding betting value.
The Ravens and Titans haven’t played all that often (25 times total), but they have played twice in the past year. In last year’s playoffs, Baltimore entered as the No. 1 seed. The Ravens lost to Tennessee 28-12 at home in the divisional playoffs.
The two teams then met in Week 11, again in Baltimore. The Ravens were a six-point favorite and led 21-10 in the third quarter when a Jackson turnover shifted the game’s momentum in favor of the Titans. Tennessee went on to win 30-24.
In that Week 11 game, Baltimore turned the ball over three times and missed on four fourth-down conversion attempts. It’s pretty easy to see what the Ravens need to do this weekend in order to win.
Run the Ball
As mentioned, these are the top two rushing offenses in the NFL. The Ravens are No. 1 averaging 191.9 yards per game. Jackson set another NFL record when he became the first quarterback to rush for over 1,000 yards in two straight seasons.
Rookie J.K. Dobbins averaged six yards a carry and finished the regular season with 805 yards. Veteran Gus Edwards added 723 on 144 carries. The Ravens won their last five games in a row and rushed for at least 150 yards in each game. They went over 200 in three of them.
Tennessee’s Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns. He became just the eighth running back to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark when he ran for 250 in the season finale against Houston. In the Week 11 game against Baltimore, Henry ran 28 times for 133 yards. His touchdown run in overtime was the game-winner.
What will likely provide the difference on Sunday is defense. The Ravens are second in scoring defense allowing 18.9 points per game for the season. On the other side of the ball, the Titans rank as one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Tennessee ranks 29th in defensive DVOA and is 30th in pass defense and 15th against the run. The Titans give up 27.4 points per game and are absolutely horrendous in the red zone. Opponents convert 69.2 percent of their trips inside the Titans 20-yard line.
In last year’s playoff game, Baltimore dominated almost every aspect of the game. The Ravens offense put up 530 yards of offense. They just couldn’t overcome three turnovers.
Baltimore has the better defense, but they will have to contain Henry. In addition to the 133 yards he had against Baltimore in Week 11, he also rushed 30 times for 195 yards in last year’s playoff game.
The Best Play
It might be real easy to just take the Ravens -3. They have the better defense and their offense has been extremely efficient over the last five weeks. However, Baltimore was in a similar spot in last year’s playoff game and they were favored in Week 11 and lost.
There is also the thought of playing the home underdog in a playoff game. That idea gets squashed when you look at Tennessee’s recent record as a home dog. The Titans are 6-22 straight up in their 28 games as a home underdog.