The Titans and Ravens once held one of the fiercest rivalries in sports. The Houston Oilers and Baltimore Ravens were divisional foes in the old AFC Central, beginning in 1970 and continuing through the Oilers’ move to Nashville until the league’s realignment in 2002.
Those late ’90s and early 2000s match-ups — featuring Eddie George’s Titans against Ray Lewis’s Ravens — represented the peak of this grueling, physical rivalry.
Former Titans Steve McNair, Derek Mason, and Samari Rolle all joined forces with the Ravens after their time was over in Tennessee, adding fuel to the fire.
Titans fans will never forget 2008 meeting between these two teams, with the #1 seed 13-3 Titans hosting the #6 seed Ravens in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Baltimore infamously tried to break Chris Johnson in half (he didn’t play after the second quarter) and snapped a crucial play late in the game well after the playclock had expired, with no flag. The Ravens escaped a low-scoring battle with a narrow win, 13-10.
After 11 years, the Titans finally repaid the favor with last January’s victory. The Ravens steamrolled their way through the regular season, locking up the one-seed and a first-round bye. And then the Titans marched into Baltimore as the 6 seed and shocked the NFL’s 14-2 juggernaut with a 28-12 win.
The Ravens had their opportunity for revenge in Week 11, when the Titans again traveled to Baltimore. Lamar Jackson and co. jumped out to a 21-10 lead early in the third quarter. But the Titans clawed their way back, eventually forcing overtime on a Herculean effort by A.J. Brown to get into the end zone, with Derrick Henry icing the game a few moments later.
Come Sunday, Baltimore will have a second shot at payback and could deliver the same season-ending loss to Tennessee that the Titans dealt almost a year ago. Oddsmakers seem to think they will — the resurgent Ravens come to town as three and a half-point favorites over the Titans.
There’s no doubt that John Harbaugh’s will come ready for the fight, especially after the dust-up at midfield shortly before kickoff of November’s meeting. Despite the Titans gathering at the midfield logo before every game, in every stadium — home or away — Harbaugh seemed to think the Titans’ traditional midfield meeting was meant to intentionally disrespect the Ravens’ logo. It was a chippy beginning to a physical match.
The Ravens were embarrassed by the Titans in their home stadium during last year’s playoffs. They were beaten again by Tennessee at home in late November. In those two meetings, Jackson threw three combined interceptions and lost a fumble. He even credited Kansas City’s defensive game plan from the Chiefs’ Week 3 win over the Ravens to how the Titans defended him in January.
“It looked like the same thing from the Tennessee game to be honest — that’s all,” Jackson said of Kansas City’s defense.
So who has the mental edge? On the one hand, the Titans seem to have the Ravens’ number. Their defense has successfully contained Jackson in two meetings, allowing a combined 36 points to Baltimore in those last two wins. Baltimore exceeded that total in four different individual games this season. They scored 30 or more eight times, but only managed 24 points against the Titans’ historically bad defense, even with an extra overtime period.
On the other hand, the motivation and sheer force of will to avoid a third consecutive loss to Ryan Tannehill’s squad will be at an all-time high in the visitor’s locker room at Nissan Stadium come Sunday morning. The Ravens are on a roll as they head into the playoffs, winning five straight by an average of 19.4 points. Baltimore led all teams in scoring differential in the 2020 regular season. They will not go down without a fight.
A fun, interesting tidbit about this game as noted by Broadway’s own Mike Herndon: the contest will be played exactly 12 years to the day after Baltimore’s 2008 upset win in Nashville.
Will it be a chance for the Titans to right old wrongs? Or will history repeat itself?
Regardless of the outcome, it’s sure to add another intense layer to one of the NFL’s most exciting rivalries, once forgotten, now renewed.