Game Preview: Ravens at Titans

The Ravens look for an encore from last week’s win to keep the momentum on their side.

Posted by Mike Duffy on Saturday, September 17th, 2011 at 10:26 am | Categories: 2011 Season Gameday, Mike Duffy, Week 2 at Titans

The Ravens made a major statement with their Week 1 beatdown of the Pittsburgh Steelers, shooting near the top of most NFL power rankings.

Heading into a Week 2 matchup with the Tennessee Titans, the Ravens now face an excellent opportunity to build some serious early momentum.

According to Head Coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens can make their most progress of the year between their first and second game.

“Year 1 to Year 2, Week 1 to Week 2 in the preseason, Week 1 to Week 2 in training camp and the regular season, that’s when you make the most progress,” said Harbaugh.  “Day 1 to Day 2 during the week, from Wednesday to Thursday, you make the most progress in preparations.  So, we’ve got to try to maximize every week.

“If we maximize this week, then we make the most progress, really, that we can make all year.”

The Ravens got out of the gate red-hot with a 35-7 walloping of their AFC North rival.  Gracing the cover of this week’s regional Sports Illustrated, the Ravens immediately became one of the league’s media darlings.

That’s why the Ravens can’t overlook a Titans team that is still adjusting to a new coaching staff and new quarterback.

Tennessee may have lost 16-14 to the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday, but they are a scrappy bunch that plays with new Head Coach Mike Munchak’s tough offensive line mentality.

Harbaugh doesn’t see the value in the term “letdown game,” and believes his players are focused enough to filter out the chatter from news outlets.

“We have guys who understand that every week in this league you’re playing a very good football team,” said Harbaugh.  “Every time we go into one of these games it gets characterized as a team that – I don’t know, a ‘letdown game’ is a term that you guys use that none of our guys are foolish enough to use.

“I think their coach said, ‘There is no better team to beat than this team that they’re getting ready to play.’ So, there is no better team to beat, than the Tennessee Titans, come Sunday, for the Baltimore Ravens.”

3 Matchups To Watch

Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Titans RB Chris Johnson
There is no better player on Tennessee’s offense than “CJ2K,” a dynamic home-run hitter that can make any defense pay in the blink of an eye.  He was on his way to 200 yards from scrimmage before he sustained an ankle injury in the first half of a divisional playoff game against the Ravens in 2009.  Lewis, the Ravens’ annual leading tackler, will be the primary pursuer of Johnson.

Ravens CB Cary Williams vs. Titans WR Kenny Britt
At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Britt is a combination of size and speed and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s primary target.  Last week, Britt turned five receptions into 136 yards and two touchdowns. The Ravens will likely deploy the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Williams on Britt to get physical with the Rutgers product.

Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Titans LB Barrett Ruud
The Titans’ tackling-machine is Ruud, a seven-year veteran with a nose for the ball.  In Jacksonville, Ruud led Tennessee with 12 stops.  He’ll have a tough time locating the diminutive Rice behind the Ravens’ offensive line, but in the open field, expect Ruud to fly to No. 27.

3 Questions To Answer

Can Gurode Slide To Guard?
With Ben Grubbs doubtful due to a toe injury, he only has a 25-percent chance of playing Sunday.  The Ravens could play guard/center Bryan Mattison or guard/tackle Mark LeVoir if Grubbs can’t go, but an intriguing prospect is Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode. The former Dallas Cowboy has briefly played guard before, and he could be the mauler the Ravens tab.

Will Corner Depth Be An Issue?
Two of the Ravens’ top corners, Jimmy Smith (ankle) and Chris Carr (thigh), are definitely not playing, leaving Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams and a rehabbing Domonique Foxworth at the head of the list. That means rookie Chykie Brown could be activated, or safety Haruki Nakamura might fill in on nickel packages.

Can Suggs Continue His Terror?
Terrell Suggs earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors with a three-sack performance against Pittsburgh. He even had some pundits calling him the most-feared defender in the NFL right now. Hasselbeck’s day could definitely be ruined with some equal pressure courtesy of T-Sizzle.

What Titans Have Done Lately

The Titans cleaned house in the offseason, ousting longtime coach Jeff Fisher and bringing in a longtime offensive line coach in Munchak.  In addition, Hasselbeck comes over after a storied career in Seattle, and Johnson held out of training camp looking for a new deal.

All told, this is a team still figuring out some things about itself.  The Titans showed some spunk against the Jaguars, getting two second-half scores from Britt – including an 80-yarder – to pull within two points, but it wasn’t enough.

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