Thursday, January 08, 2009

NFL Divisional Playoffs Pre-Game Analysis: Baltimore at Tennessee

Tennessee Do’s and Don’t’s

Do that thing you do. Not trying to break out a lyric from a Tom Hanks movie. Just making it plain and simple. Run the ball. Ram it down their throats. The Ravens Defense is a monster, but like any defense, commitment to the run can wear them out. A heavy dose of LenDale and Johnson is the best way to get that defense on their heels.

Do free up Bulluck and Thornton so they can play all over the field. If Haynesworth is heart of the defense, Bulluck and Thornton are its soul. If the front four and Tulloch can handle their assignments, don’t be surprised if you hear Bulluck’s or Thornton’s name mentioned on a lion’s share of the plays (in a good way).

Do find a way to get Scaife involved. If the running game is churning out 3 YPC against this great Baltimore defense, Scaife needs to show his stuff on third downs as the safety-valve. Though Crumpler’s role has been as a blocking TE for most of the year, he flashed receiving skills in the past, and could offer the team another check-down option in the passing game.

Don’t let Haloti Ngata destroy your offensive line, now that there are reports of Kevin Mawae saying he can’t go. Mawae is the most important cog of that line, especially against a 3-4 defense, where he is usually asked to do more than make the initial line calls and either take on a LB or pull a double or stunt on a DT. Whichever of Leroy Harris, Jake Scott or Eugene Amano move over to center, they will have the beast, Ngata, on them most of the game, not to mention, occasionally Ray Lewis.

Don’t forget to find Justin Gage on occasion. He has four to six inches on any CB he faces on the Ravens. This mismatch should draw a safety’s attention in coverage. If Gage can draw Ed Reed, McCareins and Jones could find themselves in some decent situations in the secondary.

Baltimore Do’s and Don’t’s

Do unleash a Ravens defense, which rivals that of the Super Bowl team. They must shut down Chris Johnson and LenDale White early, forcing Kerry Collins to attempt to beat them. While Collins has a 50/50 shot at throwing 3 TDs or 3 INTs, the odds are much worse for the Ravens if Johnson and White run wild.

Do figure out who has the hot hand (or would that be “hot foot”?) early between Willis McGahee and La’Ron McClain. Will success arise from McGahee’s ability to get outside the tackles, or McClain’s bruising style up the middle? Whichever it is, a successful running game is key for either team winning this game.

Do put Ed Reed in position to get 2+ turnovers. The Ravens are undefeated in games where this ball-hawking great gets 2 or more. Success in sending Reed after Collins early will cause the Titans to change blocking schemes and take their TEs out of the passing game. Without his safety-valves, Collins will be forced to make some throws, and turnovers should ensue.

Don’t force the weight of this game onto Flacco’s shoulders. While he has had a good rookie year, the last time he faced the Titans he was picked off three times (though one was overturned). Let Flacco get his redemption by keeping his attempts around or below 25, which should also mean that other things have fallen into place for the Ravens.

Don’t let the away game have an effect on the team. This is going to be a defensive chess game that should be full of big plays (we’ll toss the offenses a couple). Just remember that the leaders of your defense already have one of those rings that you’re playing for now. There is immense value in knowing how to win when it matters. Lean on Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and let them lead the team to victory.

Key Match Ups:

When Tennessee has the Ball
LT Michael Roos vs. OLB Terrell Suggs
Will Suggs be the first NFL player this season to score a sack off Roos?

When Baltimore has the Ball
WRs Derrick Mason & Mark Clayton vs. CBs Cortland Finnegan & Nick Harper
This is one should be a great battle. Both CBs have their finesse style, but are also a lot more physical than they look. Finnegan came into his own these last two years and is playing his best football. Lately, Derrick Mason has been making the important catches that fly under the radar, gaining more of Flacco’s trust. Clayton became an occasional X-Factor receiver late in the season.


Head Coaching Interviews
Rex Ryan and Jim Schwartz are doing the case-study portion of their job interviews while on the sidelines. If they plan to land a head coaching job, they need to bring their best as D-Coordinators, and show that they are the right men for the available jobs. With the amount of extra effort these two should be putting into this game, I can see a defensive match up unfolding.

D-Line Health
Haynesworth and Vanden Bosch started practicing this week. They are essential for the Titans run-stopping. They can’t afford for McGahee and McClain to break off long runs, burying their team.

Final Score Prediction
Baltimore takes out the early season juggernaut in a squeaker…17-13


Sum said...

Good overview, especially the focus on Mason and Clayton in the intangibles. However, the recent news as to Ed Reed's knee hurts B'more a lot.

I'm taking the Flaming Thumbtacks to win, 16-10. MVP: Bironas

Armin said...

Even if Reed is hurt, he can have the Charles Barkley (when he was at Auburn) effect.

Even if he was injured and barely able to jog, Barkley would be in the game just barely making it up and down the court. But, his presence sparked his team to victories.

Reed should play. Regardless of his hurts. He brings more to the defense than his statistics show.

Mojan said...

Ed Reed has the best IQ of any NFL player, even more than Peyton. His knowledge of the game and offenses is the best .. hands down. He should have won his 2nd NFL Defensive MVP.

Armin said...

If I needed a player on my team now between James Harrison and Ed Reed....I would take Ed Reed.


Harrison deserved Defensive MVP this season. He was just sick this year.