RAVENS vs. TITANS

November 12, 2006|By [JAMISON HENSLEY] | [JAMISON HENSLEY],Sun Reporter

Ravens run offense vs. Titans run defense

After averaging 16 carries in six games with Jim Fassel as offensive coordinator, running back Jamal Lewis has averaged 27.5 carries in two games with Brian Billick calling the plays. Although the commitment is there, the production hasn't been. The Ravens are averaging 3.5 yards per carry as a team, tied for fifth worst in the NFL. But expect the Ravens to establish a power rushing attack against a vulnerable Titans' defense. Without space-eating defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, the Titans don't have the bulk up front, which has allowed teams to push them around. Tennessee has the second-worst run defense in the league, giving up a total of 321 yards rushing the past two weeks.

Edge: Ravens

Ravens pass offense vs. Titans pass defense

It's difficult to know where the ball is going because quarterback Steve McNair has distributed passes so evenly this season. Tight end Todd Heap (34 catches) and wide receivers Derrick Mason (31) and Mark Clayton (34) have all led the Ravens in catches for at least one game. The Titans have been primarily playing man coverage with average cornerbacks, which could make them susceptible to big plays. Tennessee likely will try to put pressure on McNair, but the Ravens' pass protection has been solid recently. The key matchup is Ravens right tackle Tony Pashos vs. defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who has 16 1/2 sacks in his past 23 games.

Edge: Ravens

Titans run offense vs. Ravens run defense

Knowing the Ravens' ball-hawking secondary, the Titans likely feel they have a better chance to win if they can crack the Ravens' run defense. Few teams have been successful on the ground against the Ravens, who haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season. Second-year player Mike Smith could replace middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who is a game-time decision with a back injury. Titans running back Travis Henry is a powerful, slashing-type runner who has averaged 3.6 yards per carry in two games against the Ravens. After putting together back-to-back 100-yard games, Henry has totaled 96 yards over his past two games.

Edge: Ravens

Titans pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

Rookie quarterback Vince Young, who threw three interceptions last Sunday vs. Jacksonville, could be looking to run rather than throw against the Ravens' secondary. The Ravens lead the NFL with 17 interceptions, five more than any other team. More important, the Ravens have scored four touchdowns on defense, including three the past two games. The Ravens' troubles with allowing big plays shouldn't be a factor today. Wide receiver David Givens (thumb) will play in his first game since Oct. 1, and Drew Bennett has been extremely inconsistent. Tight end Ben Troupe hasn't been the force that many expected this season.

Edge: Ravens

Special teams

The Ravens' coverage teams made their biggest play of the season, forcing a fumble on the opening kickoff last Sunday. But they have to play more consistently. The Titans receive a boost with the return of Adam "Pacman" Jones, who is a dangerous punt returner. Ravens kicker Matt Stover has been successful on his past 34 field-goal attempts, and Titans kicker Rob Bironas has made his past eight.

Edge: Even

Intangibles

The road is no longer an automatic pitfall for the Ravens, who are one of seven teams with winning records away from home this season (3-1). The Ravens' bigger problem could be looking past the struggling Titans, but the players still have last year's disappointing loss in Tennessee on their minds. Plus, McNair is highly motivated to beat the Titans, who barred him from their facility twice this offseason before trading him to the Ravens. Tennessee has lost its six games this season by an average margin of 17.5 points.

Edge: Ravens

Prediction

McNair has played it cool on the topic of returning to Tennessee, but his teammates know otherwise. He'll repay the Titans for a turbulent offseason with three touchdowns, and the Ravens finally finish off an opponent before the fourth quarter. No letdown in Tennessee this season.

Ravens, 34-6

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