Baltimore (14-2 SU, 11-4-1 ATS) opens its run as Super Bowl favorite, currently 2-to-1 at Caesars, at home in what could be a rainy Saturday night. Upset-minded Tennessee (10-7, 10-7) arrives instead of the Texans, which also means Tom Brady and the Patriots won’t come knocking again.
The Ravens had their coming-out party in Week 9, dominating New England 37-20 after a well-timed bye. As November opened, the AFC still looked like the Patriots Invitational due to an elite defense and the presence of Brady. That game was not only an eye-opener, it sent the teams in completely different directions. Baltimore hasn’t lost since Sept. 29, going 9-2-1 against the spread during its 12-game win streak. Quarterback Lamar Jackson will be named NFL MVP.
The Titans defeated the Patriots in Foxborough last week, clamping down defensively and riding a ground game led by NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry to a 20-13 win that would’ve been a one-point squeaker if not for a Brady pick-six to close the game out. Tennessee has now won and covered six of eight, a stretch that actually includes a perfect mark over four road games. Tennessee’s run began with a home win over Kansas City and includes a Week 17 victory over a Houston team resting starters, so Mike Vrabel’s team will have plenty of confidence if it can survive to play for an AFC Championship on the road next Sunday.
Tennessee’s current Super Bowl odds at Caesars are 35-to-1 and it is currently the lone double-digit underdog playing this weekend unless Houston ends up in that role on Sunday. As of late Friday, the Chiefs were still a 9/9.5-point favorite for Sunday’s matchup with the Texans.
The number for this game opened with the Ravens laying 10 points but that was quickly bet down to nine points, even reaching 8.5 at Circa and FanDuel. Around Tuesday, the action started coming in on Baltimore, pushing the spread to 10 and potentially climbing.
Titans QB Ryan Tannehill won his postseason debut despite having never won at Gillette Stadium coming into this postseason. He’s now 8-3 as the team’s starter. Lamar Jackson will be looking to get on the board after falling his first time out, struggling to get anything going against the Chargers at home in an eventual 23-17 loss in the Wild Card round last year. The Ravens fell behind 12-0 and 23-3 before a pair of late scores. Jackson ran nine times for 54 yards and finished 14-for-29 for 194 yards and the two fourth-quarter TD passes.
He then went to work and became the NFL’s most prolific offensive weapon. Jackson set a league record for a quarterback with 1,206 rushing yards. He threw 36 touchdown passes while Baltimore set a league record with 3,296 rushing yards. After opening the season with a 59-10 rout of Miami, the Ravens barely slowed down. They’ve scored 28 or more points in eight of their last 10 contests and finished with a league-best 531 points (33.2 ppg). This total of 47 is consistent with where oddsmakers have kept Ravens games all season, placing them within three of that number in 12 of their 16 contests. The ‘over’ is 9-7 in Baltimore games.
Jackson has props of 17.5 completions and two passing touchdowns available at the Westgate Superbook. The number set on his rushing prop is 74.5 yards, which is a figure he’s eclipsed in five of his past six games. Despite that, he’s got just one rushing TD over the last six contests. Keep that in mind if you’re enticed by banking on ‘yes’ at a return of +115 (-135 for ‘no’).
By comparison, Henry’s odds of reaching the end zone have been at set at -150, which is still a nice bet considering the Titans are unlikely to get shut out and he’s scored in seven of the last eight games he’s played in. He’s got 13 touchdowns since the beginning of November and looks healthy after taking Week 16 off to rest an ailing hamstring. Henry’s rushing total has been set at 95.5, a figure he’s topped in six of seven after racking up 182 yards at New England last Saturday night. He closed the regular season with 211 yards on 32 carries at Houston. The Ravens finished with the league’s fifth-best run defense, which will definitely make things interesting.
Baltimore’s pass defense finished sixth, while the Titans finished 24th stifling teams through the air. If inclement weather is part of the action, it may not be as easy for Jackson to dissect Tennessee. The 238 yards he passed for against the Browns in Week 17 were his highest output since late September. Tight end Mark Andrews has emerged as his favorite target and should play despite likely being at less than 100 percent with an ankle injury. He’s caught seven of Jackson’s 24 touchdown passes over the past seven weeks and is even money to score on Saturday (‘no’ -120)
Preparing for Jackson is an impossible task, but the Titans have been working against the elusive former No. 2 overall pick Marcus, Mariota to try and replicate what they’re about to face. Tannehill finished 8-for-15 for just 72 yards against the Patriots, so his passing yards number (225.5) is suspiciously high. If you’re of the belief that Baltimore will go up early and the Titans will have to abandon their plans to feed Henry and consume clock, be sure to check and see just how hard the rain is falling as kickoff approaches and get a more accurate forecast for potential in-game showers.
AP notes worth knowing include the Ravens coming in 72-24 at home under Harbaugh throughout his tenure, allowing only 16.8 points per game. Baltimore 14-1 in home primetime games, while Jackson threw 11 TDs with no picks in his three evening games this season.
Mark Ingram (calf) is listed as questionable to play, but the Ravens’ top running back returned to practice on Thursday and is expected to suit up and play. Gus Edwards would be in for an increased workload if Ingram can’t get loose or is ineffective. The Ravens are otherwise healthy and should see Ingram and Edwards gut it out through their usual roles. Tennessee has ruled out linebacker Jayon Brown, who hurt his shoulder against the Patriots. Backup WR Adam Humphries is also sidelined. Corner Adoree Jackson and LB Kamalei Correa will play.