Here are our questions about the Ravens and the upcoming game, answered by Thomas Jackson of Ravens Football Machine, after the jump. Enjoy.
Total Titans: Reader quagliero asks, "Do the Ravens' fans care about this game as much as Titans fans do? I despise them but get the feeling it's quite a one way affair as they tend to beat us when it matters and have their big battles with the Steelers."
Tom Jackson: Great question...I feel, getting a sense from our call-in listeners on our local radio show, that the Ravens fans are ready to "let down" on the intensity of their feelings toward playing the Titans. I blame that on the "realignment" of the divisional rosters of the AFC some years ago, when the powers that be took the Ravens out of the Titans' division and lumped them in with the AFC North. It's no longer the big deal it used to be... which is a shame from the spectator perspective, because the Titans and Ravens used to have some of the best classic divisional showdowns. All that is watered down now because of the divisional realignment...
Total Titans: Titans fans remember Cary Williams, who was with the Titans for two seldom-used years before being cut. Unless he's greatly improved, seeing him as a starting corner doesn't speak much for the overall quality at the position. How worried are you about Kenny Britt, considering the injuries and problems at cornerback?
TJ: Cary Williams says he is ready for Kenny Britt... Williams at 6-1, 190 is the biggest corner the Ravens can throw at Britt (6-3, 215)... but that is because 1st-round draft pick Jimmy Smith (6-2, 210) is out for four weeks with a high-ankle sprain. That being acknowledged, Williams has hit his stride professionally by basically playing his way onto the Ravens' depth chart ... Williams is playing at a level which I (or the Titans) never thought he could achieve... I can't explain it other than pointing to the kid's heart and his will to succeed... He's simply gotten better. And the Ravens are amazingly deeper at corner than you'd think... Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb, Domonique Foxworth, Chykie Brown and Williams have all stepped up in an unexplainable way this season... maybe it's just a natural maturation process, I don't know... but none of these guys seems particularly in awe of Kenny Britt... I know I would be petrified of having to cover him!
Total Titans: Everyone knows that the Ravens are Ray Lewis' team, but is he now the fourth best player on the Ravens' defense? How would you rank Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and Ray-Ray?
TJ: Ray Lewis is amazingly still covering a lot of ground and also calling all the defensive signals out there... I know, you'd think a guy in his 16th year would be close to useless by now... but look at London Fletcher with the Redskins in a similar role... it just seems both these guys were born to play inside linebacker in the NFL. It's like it's in their DNA... Lewis reported to camp this summer in the best shape the Ravens' trainers say they have ever seen him... Yes, safety Ed Reed and DT Haloti Ngata are considered leaders of the defense, also... Ngata may be the best natural athlete on the team, given his size (6-4, 350) and his relative quickness and ability to make big plays...But for some charismatic reason, backed by still viable physical and mental ability, this is still "Ray Lewis' team"... If anyone is poised to inherit that crown of leadership from Lewis, it is probably OLB Terrell Suggs....
Total Titans: The Titans probably won't be able to stop the run too effectively unless they commit eight or nine men to it. If that's the case, has Joe Flacco improved enough to win the game with his arm?
TJ: Joe Flacco has never looked sharper with his arm in terms of both accuracy and deep throw potential. He used to struggle a bit with touch on long passes. His delivery sometimes was a bit too slow and methodical. He used to lock too much on one receiver (Derrick Mason, now with the Jets)... There were other questions about his "leadership", which I think was a crock from the beginning... But I think Joe has found his required level of confidence in the NFL. In only his 4th year, but having started at QB for three playoff teams since he was a rookie, I think Joe is finally "there"... You're going to see much improved reads and overall consistency by this guy against the Titans...and he will make big-time throws now over the middle into tight windows under pressure. That's the new Joe Flacco. He also has increased involvement in the decision-making and the game-planning. He could very well evolve into the "Aaron Rodgers" of the AFC this season. I don't throw around comparisons like that lightly...
Total Titans: Prediction time. How and why will the Ravens win, and by how much?
TJ: I don't feel comfortable predicting a "W" for the Ravens over the Titans in Nashville. The Titans are a good team with an exceptional core of talent. Plus, Matt Hasselbeck has a history of lighting up the Ravens over the last decade when he was with Seattle... that does not bode well for the karma of this match-up. But... I will say, if the Ravens can reasonably contain Kenny Britt and Chris Johnson, they have a better than even chance to prevail in this one by 3 points... and that would depend on a lot of things going well for the Ravens offense, including solid OL play and contributions from their tight ends (relatively new guys Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta) and their feature RB ( Ray Rice).. WR Anquan Boldin will be counted on heavily as well, since his counterpart Lee Evans (veteran wideout formerly with the Bills) is likely sidelined with a foot issue...and RB Ricky Williams will have to do something significant to move the chains on at least two big plays in order to make a Ravens "W" possible. The margin of error for both teams in this game is very slim.
Thanks to Tom for his answers to our questions. For more on the Ravens from their point of view, see what else Tom is writing about on Ravens Football Machine.