Ravens-Titans: Five predictions for Sunday

September 17, 2011 | Luke Jones

The Ravens will take on the Tennessee Titans franchise for the 17th time in the regular season. The teams are deadlocked at 8-8, though Baltimore holds the 2-1 edge in postseason meetings. Baltimore is 4-4 when playing on the road in the regular season against Tennessee.

Of course, the two are old rivals from the now defunct AFC Central. Since NFL realignment took place in 2002, the Ravens are 3-3 against Tennessee in regular-season games.

Without further ado, here are five predictions for what to expect in Week 2 …

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1. A pick-six gives the Ravens their first defensive touchdown of the year. Perhaps the only stat more surprising than Pittsburgh’s seven turnovers in the Ravens’ 35-7 win last week was that none of those takeaways resulted in defensive touchdowns with the Baltimore defense’s reputation for turning turnovers into instant points. Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselbeck tossed 34 interceptions over his last two seasons with Seattle and likes to take chances from time to time. With the Titans likely falling behind as the game progresses, Hasselbeck will be forced to take more chances in the passing game. Cornerback Cary Williams was a seventh-round draft pick by the Titans in 2009 and would be an appropriate candidate for a defensive score against his old team.

2. Joe Flacco throws a touchdown pass to a rookie wide receiver. With Lee Evans’ left ankle continuing to be an issue, you have to wonder how effective he’ll remain as a decoy in stretching the opposing defense. Teams aren’t going to respect a deep threat without the breakaway speed. The Ravens need bigger contributions from receivers not named Anquan Boldin currently on the roster, as no other wideout caught a pass against the Steelers. The return of second-year player David Reed throws another name in the equation, but Torrey Smith is the best bet to break through against a Tennessee pass defense that ranked 29th in the NFL last year.

3. The Ravens only lead by one score in the third quarter. Head coach John Harbaugh was defiant on Friday when dismissing the notion of a letdown in Tennessee. Despite posting a 5-3 road record in 2010, the Ravens won on the road by more than one possession only twice last season. Road blowouts just don’t happen very often in the NFL, no matter how confident fans — and media members — might be. With the Titans playing their home opener and their fans remembering Baltimore’s past postseason triumphs at LP Field, it figures to be a hostile atmosphere that could boost Tennessee early in the game. A big play or two from Chris Johnson or Kenny Britt certainly wouldn’t hurt the Titans’ chances, either.

4. Ray Rice eclipses 100 rushing yards for the second straight week. The Titans allowed 163 yards on the ground last week in Jacksonville while the Ravens ran for 170 against Pittsburgh’s stout run defense. Rice accounted for 107 of those on 19 carries before giving way to backup Ricky Williams late in the game. With Evans not 100 percent and left guard Ben Grubbs doubtful with a toe injury, Baltimore may remain more conservative than normal. Then again, if you can run all over an opposing defense and control the clock, it’s far more intelligent than it is conservative when playing on the road.

5. The Ravens pull away in the second half, winning 27-10. Say what you want about the Titans playing the Jaguars close in a road game, but the unheralded Luke McCown was making the start only days after starting quarterback David Garrard was released by Jacksonville. The Baltimore ground game will wear down an underwhelming Tennessee defense in the second half and win this one comfortably. While it’s true the Ravens must keep Johnson off the edge and Britt in front of them, the pair’s big-play ability won’t be enough to keep the Titans from falling to 0-2. Baltimore improves to 2-0 to stay atop the AFC North.

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