Titans (4-0) @ Ravens (2-1)
Things don’t get any easier for our purple and black this week, as the Tennessee Titans, one of just 3 remaining undefeated teams in the NFL, make the trip up to B’More. These two teams, former fierce AFC Central rivals, last met in 2006 in Nashville, when Trevor Pryce blocked a last second field goal attempt to seal the win for the Ravens. So far in 2008, the “flaming thumbtacks” (our favorite of all the TMQ nicknames) have outscored their opponents 102-46 in sprinting out of the gates. However, 3 of these victories have been at home, and the other was in Cincinnati. Playing at M&T Bank stadium against a Ravens team that can match them physically punch-for-punch, will be a whole different animal.
Quarterbacking the Titans since Vince Young went crazy is former Super Bowl XXXV Ravens punching bag Kerry Collins. Ironically, Collins role this year in Tennessee has been very similar to that of Trent Dilfer’s on the Ravens in 2000: don’t screw up, and let your great defense win the game. Unfortunately for him, screwing quarterbacks up is just what Rex Ryan’s defense does best. They absolutely abused Carson Palmer and Derek Anderson, then made Baby Ben look stupid for all but 2
drives plays on Monday night. The Ravens will again be without the services of Samari Rolle, but Fabian Washington is finally healthy, and filled in adequately against Pittsburgh. Tennessee’s wide receivers don’t exactly scare anybody anyway.
Fact is, these two teams plan to do most of their damage on the ground. The Titans come in with the duo of Chris Johnson and LenDale White, while the Ravens will counter with Willis McGahee (listed as questionable), Le’Run McClain, and Ray Rice. Johnson has an explosiveness not seen by the Ravens yet in 2008, and White carries the
roll role of bruiser. Johnson, a rookie out of East Carolina, could threaten the Ravens league-long streak of 23 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. It sure would be nice to have Buddy Lee back for this one, but Kelly is still out with that knee issue.
The Titans defense has been good, but I really couldn’t tell you anything about them. I know of two players – Albert Haynesworth, because he committed the only recorded in-game “curb-stomp” in league history, and Jevon Kearse, because…well, because he is old. I think former Squealer safety Chris Hope may be on the squad, but I may also be making that up. Anyway, just because I can’t name many of them doesn’t mean I am taking them for granted. Neither should you, Ravens fans. A name I DO know is that of their coordinator, Arbutus native Jim Schwartz. Schwartz, who we would have liked to see at least get an interview for the Ravens head coaching position last winter, will do all he can to get inside the head of the as of yet mostly “Un-Flacc-able” Joe Flacco. Flacco’s experience against Pittsburgh should help him moving forward, but every week is a new test for the rookie.
Speaking of Flacco, hopefully Joey can find a way to spread the wealth a little more this week, even though Derrick Mason will be looking to have another big game against his former team. Where, oh where are you, Mark Clayton and Todd Heap? It was nice to see Dan Wilcox catch a pass last week, but the Ravens other receivers need to find a way to get open if this team really wants to go anywhere.
On the sidelines, the Titans have another distinct advantage in Head Coach Jeff Fisher, the longest tenured coach in the league, having started midway through the 1994 season. Despite being only 4 years older than John Harbaugh, Fisher has 13+ years more of Head Coaching experience. The last time a Jeff Fisher coached team played at M&T, the Titans defeated the Ravens in the 2003 Wild Card Playoff.
Field position and turnovers will dictate the outcome of this game, which promises to be one of the lower-scoring affairs in the NFL in week 5. The Ravens special teams have a lot to prove after a penalty filled, dismal performance in Pittsburgh. If the return teams can’t get anything going, the defenses are just as likely to put points up for their teams as the offenses in this one. The Ravens’ home field advantage, paired with the fact that Kerry Collins still has purple nightmares 8 years later, will be enough for B’More to do the Titans a favor, and take all that “undefeated” pressure off them.
Ravens 17 Titans 9