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Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill passes while in the grasp of New England Patriots defensive tackle Lawrence Guy in the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

NASHVILLE — Rodney Dangerfield the Tennessee Titans aren't.

Oh, they may indeed fully embrace the late comic's signature shtick that they aren't getting any respect heading into Saturday night's AFC divisional playoff matchup at top-seeded Baltimore.

As Titans veteran Jurrell Casey noted Tuesday afternoon, "We know that everybody is going to count the Titans out. That's this year. That's any year."

Added second-year head coach Mike Vrabel when asked about being 8.5-point underdogs to the Ravens — though that's actually down from a 10-point gap, according to BetMGM — "I imagine we're the underdogs every week. You go to our (home) games and there are 20,000 of the other team's fans there."

But they only said those things when asked. They weren't conversation starters. It doesn't appear to be their motivational tool of choice.

Instead, linebacker Jayon Brown said, "We've got to do what we've been doing — swarm and tackle and make plays."

Said quarterback Ryan Tannehill after winning the first playoff game he'd ever started in Saturday's 20-13 victory at New England: "(Baltimore) is an extremely aggressive defense. We've got to take advantage of our opportunities when they pressure."

Noted Vrabel: "The challenge is on everybody to prepare to succeed in a hostile environment on Saturday night. Just like last week."

Respect or no respect, those wise guys in Las Vegas aren't often too far off about point spreads or favorites. There's a reason the Ravens are favored by more than a touchdown, and it isn't solely because they posted the NFL's best record at 14-2.

Thanks to the matchless Lamar Jackson at quarterback — 3,127 passing yards, 1,206 rushing yards, 36 TD passes, seven rushing touchdowns — Baltimore is averaging 33.4 points a game. The Ravens are giving up 17.6.

Again, Tannehill: "We know we're going against a talented offense. We'll probably have to score more points than last week to win this game."

The statistics will show that the Titans offense scored 14 points last week at New England. A 9-yard interception return by defensive back Logan Ryan with nine seconds to play gave Tennessee its final six points.

(More: Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill leading Titans' playoff run in final contract year)

It's unlikely 20 offensive points will knock off the Ravens. It's all but certain that 14 won't, since 20 points are the fewest the Ravens have scored all season.

Nor does at least one Raven seem to fear anything the Titans offense might produce, safety Earl Thomas, a three-time first-team Pro Bowler, telling ESPN, "I think if Tannehill tries to pass on us, I don't think that'll go in their favor. We know they're going to try to run the ball."

With Derrick Henry fresh from a 182-yard performance in New England, Tennessee obviously will attempt to run the ball, however stout Baltimore's defense against the run (93.4 yards per game).

Still, the Ravens do have two losses. Those occurred in back-to-back weeks way back in September, 33-28 at Kansas City on Sept. 22 and 40-25 at home to Cleveland on Sept. 29. Their winning streak is now at 12.

But that doesn't mean the Titans don't have a little momentum of their own coming into this one, what with eight wins in their last 11 games, including four straight road wins by an average score of 32-16, which is roughly the same as Baltimore's average score for the season.

"We'll prepare, study, build momentum," said Titans wideout A.J. Brown, who has provided his teammates a lot of momentum by grabbing eight touchdown passes to date and 1,051 yards worth of receiving yards. "They're really good on the back end (defensively). They'll probably win some (one-on-ones). We'll probably win some, too."

The belief is that most of these Titans will be together next season. That the organization will re-sign Tannehill. That it will lock up Henry to a long-term deal. That having finally put together a team capable of not only reaching the postseason but succeeding once there, the Titans won't nonchalantly toss it aside.

In Brown, Henry and Tannehill, they have legitimate All-Pro weapons at wideout, running back and quarterback. Vrabel is maturing as a tactician and long ago proved he has the respect of his players. The future would appear bright, regardless of what happens Saturday night in Baltimore.

"I don't think about that," Tannehill said when asked if he'd considered that this could be his final game as a Titan.

If the team's front office gives him and Henry the respect they deserve, he won't have to think about it. And if both men are back in Nashville next year, Vrabel should no longer have to worry about 20,000 opposing fans finding tickets in Nissan Stadium, because the franchise might finally have a team worthy of selling out to its own fan base.

But that's for later.

For now there's Baltimore.

"We're just excited to go play another game," Vrabel said. "There are a lot of teams that aren't doing that."

If he can still say that this time next week, the Titans will be 60 minutes from their first Super Bowl appearance in 20 years.

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Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

 

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