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Preston’s preview: Key matchup, X-factor in Saturday’s Ravens-Titans divisional-round game

Key matchup

Titans DC Dean Pees vs Ravens OC Greg Roman: These two once tangled in Super Bowl XLVII, when Roman was the coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers and Pees was the coordinator with the Ravens. Pees won that one, 34-31, even though the 49ers rolled up 468 yards of total offense. Roman runs an offense similar to the one he had in San Francisco. Back then, the quarterback was Colin Kaepernick. Now, it’s Lamar Jackson, but the scheme is basically the same: an offense filled with creative plays for a versatile quarterback. Pees is one of the best coaching minds in the NFL, one of only eight coordinators to have coached in a Super Bowl with two teams. Pees has to find a way to slow Jackson, possibly the top offensive weapon in the NFL. The Ravens are ranked No. 1 in total offense while the Titans are ranked No. 12 in total defense.

Who’s hot?

The game will feature two of the top offensive players in the NFL in Jackson and Tennessee running back Derrick Henry. Jackson has rushed for 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns on 176 carries and passed for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns. Both can control the pace of a game. Henry rushed for 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns on 303 carries during the regular season. At 6 feet 3 and 247 pounds, he can pound and wear down opponents, especially in the second half. The key is to not allow him to square his shoulder pads and run downhill at the line of scrimmage. Jackson can beat any team with his legs or arm, and the Ravens are always in the game, regardless of how far they get behind. It will be interesting to see which one dominates the game.

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The X-Factor

Let’s see if any team can grab a big lead early. If one can, it will take the other out of its offense because both teams like to run the football. The Ravens might have some rust because their top six players haven’t played in a game in three weeks. If the Ravens fall behind, they have more weapons than the Titans and Jackson can open the offense with his ability to run. Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill has played extremely well in the second half of the season but has only one real outside weapon in rookie receiver A.J. Brown. Tannehill has completed 201 of 286 passes for 2,742 yards this season with 22 touchdowns and Brown has 52 catches for 1,051 yards.

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