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Here’s how the Titans can upset the top-seeded Ravens

Here’s how the Titans can upset the top-seeded Ravens

The Titans are headed to Baltimore as the No. 6 seed to face the No. 1 seed Ravens, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a typical top vs. bottom seed matchup. 

Tennessee won seven of its final 10 games, and ever since they switched out Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill, its offense has been firing on all cylinders. Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing yards as he carried the Titans to a 20-13 win over the defending champion Patriots last weekend. 

While the Ravens are favored, the Titans certainly shouldn’t be discarded just for being the No. 6 seed. 

Here are a few paths to victory for the Titans:

Use Derrick Henry again and again and again

Henry was the league’s best running back this season, and it’s not hard to see why. 

Listed at 6-foot-3, 247 pounds, Henry is a tall task to bring to the ground. He rushed for 1,540 yards in just 15 games this season to lead the NFL. He also averages more than five yards per carry. 

To slow him down, the Ravens will likely blitz from the outside to prevent Henry from reaching the edges and getting a full head of steam. If Henry is able to get his momentum behind him as he runs there could be trouble for the Ravens defense, which ranks 20th in defending the run. 

If Henry is able to run the way the Titans want him to, the Ravens are going to be in some trouble against the most powerful running back they’ll face all year. 

Don’t turn the ball over 

Although the sample size is just two games, it’s still an important fact to bring up. 

Against the Chiefs and Browns, the Ravens forced just one turnover (against the Browns) and lost both of those games. Since then, the Ravens have forced at least one turnover each week of the season. 

The Titans aren’t exactly proficient at protecting the ball, but their defense is able to create some turnovers of their own. Against the league’s best offense in the Ravens, the Titans cannot afford to hand the ball over and give Lamar Jackson free possessions. 

Should the Titans protect the football, a basic yet important ask, they’ll keep themselves in the game.

Control the clock

The Ravens were first in the NFL in time of possession at 34:47 per game, more than a minute and a half more than the team in second place. 

Time of possession in the NFL is mostly even, with the ninth through ranked 23rd teams being less than two minutes apart. But the Ravens have turned that into a notable statistic. 

The Titans were the third-worst team in the NFL at possessing the ball with an average of just 28:31 per game — despite their running style. 

If the Ravens are able to control the ball, against a Titans team that certainly wants to keep Jackson off the field, then the Titans will have a tough time being able to establish the run like they want to after long Ravens drives.

Stop the blitz

Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale likes to blitz. A lot. 

The Ravens blitz more than any team in the NFL, and it’s up to the Titans and Tannehill to stand in against a likely non-stop blitz effort throughout the night.

It’s something that’s left Titans coach Mike Vrabel with not a firm answer on how to slow down the Ravens constant blitzes.

“Other than block them?” Vrabel joked. “I don’t know, you’ve just got to make sure your IDs are right, and the backs are involved now in protection. Receivers have to be able to sometimes break off routes or sight adjust. And then you’ve got to try to block them.”

Slow down Lamar Jackson

This is the simplest point, but also the most difficult part for the Titans effort. 

Jackson is the league’s likely MVP, and it’s clear the Titans will make their best effort to go for the head of the snake. The only problem is, no team has completely shut him down this season. 

He finished the year with 43 total touchdowns and 4,333 total yards in 15 games and was generally nearly impossible for opposing defenses to stop all season. 

If Jackson is able to run wild, Tennessee could be in for a long, long night at M&T Bank Stadium.

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Jalen Hurts' defiant NFL Combine comments mirror Lamar Jackson's

Jalen Hurts' defiant NFL Combine comments mirror Lamar Jackson's

It seems kind of laughable now, doesn’t it?

In 2018, questions about Lamar Jackson’s future position were unavoidable. His speed and elusiveness, combined with a spotty track record when it came to accuracy, had teams salivating about his potential at a number of skill positions in the NFL -- quarterback not included.

Now, coming off a unanimous MVP campaign, during which he rewrote record books and established himself as one of the young faces of the next generation of quarterbacks, it’s strange to look back on a time when the majority of football pundits thought his future was at wide receiver or running back.

Jackson’s undeniable success has not only taken the NFL by storm, it’s paved the way for future athletic college quarterbacks to stick at the position.

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, formerly of Alabama and one of the top players in the country, is receiving the same questions at this year’s NFL Combine that Jackson fielded at his. Namely, is he willing to switch positions?

His answer mirrors Jackson’s. He’s a quarterback only, and he has no interest in switching positions to appease an organization with less foresight than what the Ravens had with Jackson.

While Hurts didn’t mention Jackson by name in his reasoning, it’s hard not to draw parallels. Jackson’s 2019 season was one for the history books, and his influence will continue to trickle down to future generations.

Players like Jackson and Hurts haven’t always had the same opportunities to succeed -- or, more importantly, fail -- as other, more “traditional” quarterbacks have had in the course of NFL history. But organizations that are creative and willing to tailor their offensive schemes to the attributes of their quarterbacks are taking advantage of a largely backward-minded league.

Teams that look at Hurts and see a unique skillset full of things he can do, rather than what he can’t, are the way of the future. 

Hurts himself, along with a generation of fellow athletic quarterbacks entering the league over the next few seasons, are betting on this future when they demand to be evaluated as quarterbacks only.

They may have found a way to push through on their own. But Jackson’s incredible year has opened up the path in a major way, making it that much easier for the next crop of unique, talented quarterbacks to shine.

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Report: Marquise Brown has offseason surgery to remove screw from foot, will be healed for training camp

Report: Marquise Brown has offseason surgery to remove screw from foot, will be healed for training camp

According to a report from Ian Rapoport, Marquise Brown is fixing last offseason’s fix.

Brown reportedly had off-season surgery to remove a screw from his injured foot, hampered by a Lisfranc injury. The move isn’t expected to keep Brown out for spring training, though it will limit him in the off-season program.

As a rookie in 2019, Brown had 46 receptions for 584 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games played. He posted seven receptions and 126 yards in the team’s loss to the Titans in the divisional round. 

Brown was the team’s best deep threat and posted five games with catches of more than 30 yards last season. 

The injury affected him all season, but it appears that the former Oklahoma Sooner will be completely healthy for his second go-round with the Ravens. 

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