2008 Season NFL Football Past Picks
January 10, 2009
This pick was released to clients on December 31, 1969 at 9:00PM ET.
Baltimore at Tennessee
Saturday 01/10 04:30 PM Eastern
3 units on Baltimore +3 (-113) (risk 3 to return 3) RESULT: WIN
It's easy to look at the numbers of Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco and say he will be overmatched here by the Titans defense. To some degree, in their early season matchup, he was. However, back then in his fourth NFL game, he was overwhelmed by all comers. On the season, Flacco had just 14 TD passes and 12 INTs - numbers that don't look inspire a lot of confidence on the road in the Divisional round of the playoffs. But as is often the case, a closer examination is telling. The Ravens who were 5-11 last season, started this year 2-3 as the rookie QB took his lumps. But Flacco matured quickly as the season progressed and as a result, this team has since gone 10-2. Flacco's numbers tell a good part of the story. He threw just one touchdown pass in his first five games along with seven interceptions. Since then he has thrown 13 TD passes to only five INTs. The Ravens lost just two of those games, and one was a controversial ending against the Steelers in a last minute TD that was up for debate. Flacco isn't the entire story with the Ravens as we know. Their defense is one of the best and most productive in the league. They have been tough all season, but over the last seven weeks of the season, when playoff fate is determined, they have stepped it up even more. Baltimore has allowed just 73 points over that stretch (10.4 per game). And consider that 17 of those 73 points came in the last six minutes of the 4th quarter vs. the Cowboys in a game that they were in control of. None of the other six teams put the ball in the end-zone more than once. The Titans have been pretty tight in sealing off the endzone themselves. Just two teams the entire season managed to top the 17-point mark vs. Tennessee and one of those was in week 17 when the Colts scored 23 against the Titans reserves. The Ravens are a better team now than the team that lost to the Titans early on. They are peaking now. On the flipside, the Titans have slipped after their 10-0 start to finish on a 3-3 run. That first meeting was lost by the Ravens on a bad roughing-the-QB call that allowed the Titans to go in for the winning score. The Ravens ran for over 100 yards that game, while the Titans managed just 48 yards on 21 attempts. The Ravens were also 7-for-14 converting 3rd downs. With the Ravens offense clicking, I think Baltimore moves the ball in this one. There is also the age old question of whether it is wise to rest starters before a playoff game to avoid injury. The answer to that is fairly simple in my mind - it shouldn't be done. Last year the Giants played hard for a win in New England at the end of the regular season in a meaningless game. How did it turn out for them in the playoffs and Super Bowl? Teams that have rested their starters in week 17 have struggled mightily in the playoffs in recent years. Since 2005 these teams are a miserable 3-5 SU and 1-7 ATS in the playoffs, and the list includes two straight-up losses by double-digit favorites. These teams that went 3-5 SU were favored in seven of the eight games. Baltimore is probably the hottest team left in the playoffs, and the Tennessee starters haven't seen action since December 21st. I like the Ravens here.