NFL expert Tom Selwyn (@Tom_Selwyn) shares his expert opinion on the best bets available from Saturday night's play-off showdown in Baltimore.
Tennessee Titans @ Baltimore Ravens | Sunday 12th January 2020, 01:15 | Sky Sports
Early on Sunday morning we’ll get the team with the leading rusher in the Titans and the leading rushing team in the Ravens going against each other. Of all the teams in the wildcard round, I think Baltimore would have had Tennessee as the team they’d least like to face.
There’s no doubt that the Ravens are the superior team, especially defensively, and the problems that Lamar Jackson poses to any team has them rightfully sitting as favourites in this one, but Derrick Henry and the Titans also present a unique set of challenges.
Henry has been fantastic this year, but especially with his outside runs where no defensive backs want, or are able, to tackle him. It showed last week against the Patriots and I’m certain that Titans coach Mike Vrabel will look to target the Ravens secondary in the same way.
The funny thing is, this seemed to be what New England wanted as they clearly looked to take away the passing game and especially the play-action pass that had been so lethal for Tennessee of late. It worked too. Henry may have had 182 yards, but other than the late INT TD the Titans only scored 14 points.
The problem the Patriots had was that they didn’t have an offense that could take advantage of a defence that ranked in the bottom half in terms of yards.
The Ravens, however, definitely do. They led the league in points this year with 33.2 per-game and haven’t been held until 20 points all year. The runs they dream up for Jackson and their RBs are so difficult to stop that if the Titans score 20 points or fewer again this week I give them no chance of winning in Baltimore.
They’ll have to hope that the Ravens defence slips a little from their regular season performances too as, and I feel this has gone under the radar a bit, they haven’t given up more than 21 points in a game since Week 5 against the Steelers. Week 5! Even the top ranked Patriots defence slipped past that total a number of times.
In terms of a pick for this game, I’m leaning towards the Ravens covering a handicap of -5.5 in the first-half. Baltimore has generally exploded out of the gate this season, ranking at the top for first-half points with 17.8 per-game. Conversely, the last couple of games aside, the Titans have been pretty slow starters this season, sitting at 27th in the league with 9.4 points.
Given that a lot of the Ravens starters will have had two weeks off prior to this game, there shouldn’t be any fatigue defensively (especially when it comes to tackling Henry) early on. Given I expect them to employ a similar tactic to what the Patriots tried, this is key.
Offensively, Baltimore should have much greater success than New England could manage. Jackson is a Phenom and the play-action that their running game effects can be devastating. Despite the Patriots inability to take advantage, Tennessee’s 21st ranked defence is there for the taking.
Tennessee have been on a fantastic run of late and they’ve been a very good team since Tannehill came in at QB, but I think their run ends against what is, in my opinion, the best team this year.
Tennessee Titans @ Baltimore Ravens – Baltimore Ravens -5.5 first-half handicap (83/100 Sportingbet)