The Ravens' catalogue of success against the Titans includes five consecutive wins and six victories in the last seven encounters.
Most prominently, Baltimore owns a 24-10 win on Jan. 7, 2001 in an AFC divisional playoff in Nashville that propelled the Ravens toward a Super Bowl title. Can any of that history affect the outcome of Saturday afternoon's redux in an AFC wild-card matchup between Baltimore (10-6) and Tennessee (12-4)? Not according to Ravens coach Brian Billick. "Not a damn thing," Billick said. "It's a new game, and I'm sure they're not thinking about it. We certainly don't count on that having any carry-over. "If it does that would be great, but what did six straight wins in Baltimore do for Pittsburgh?"
Baltimore defeated the Steelers, 13-10, Sunday night in overtime as NFL rushing champion Jamal Lewis tried to surpass Eric Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105 rushing yards. He wound up with 2,066 yards for the second-most prolific total in league history. Baltimore will take on the Titans' top-ranked run defense headlined by Pro Bowl linebacker Keith Bulluck and talented defensive linemen Albert Haynesworth, Jevon Kearse and Kevin Carter. "We are the No. 1 rushing offense," Billick said. "What do they have to do to stop us from running it down their throats? Put the eight guys in the box, which won't be anything new for us. "That is a standard alignment for them, which is why they have been able to be so successful against the run. It's going to be an interesting matchup of strengths."
Regardless of alignment, Lewis still figures heavily into the Ravens' game plan for the playoffs along with a stingy defense ranked third overall that has held the Titans to seven, 10 and 12 points in the last three meetings. During the playoff game, defensive end Keith Washington deflected former Titans kicker Al Del Greco's field-goal attempt to safety Anthony Mitchell. Mitchell scampered 90 yards for a touchdown to go along with All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis' momentum-shifting 50-yard interception return of a pass that running back Eddie George bobbled.
When asked if he wanted to see Del Greco kicking for the Titans, who now employ Gary Anderson, on Saturday, Billick quipped: "We would pay for it."
The Ravens have done their share of gloating before and after those wins, although Billick insisted it's a rivalry of mutual respect. "The trash-talking, I think, was overblown," Billick said. "The rivalry is very real, believe me. It's to the marrow. "All the peripheral things and them not liking us and us not liking them, the verbiage back and forth, that's been overplayed. As for any psychological cache the Ravens might own based on history, Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister declined to analyze whether what has transpired had damaged the Titans' psyche. "I'm not qualified," McAlister said. "I don't know what they're thinking in their locker room. You would have to ask them."
INJURY UPDATE: Trainer Bill Tessendorf said Pro Bowl outside linebacker Peter Boulware remains "day-to-day" after having his sprained knee drained. If he can't play for the second week in a row or is limited to long-yardage situations, Baltimore will start rookie Terrell Suggs and veteran Cornell Brown. Injured Titans quarterback Steve McNair participated in a short workout in Nashville on Tuesday. Titans coach Jeff Fisher told reporters that McNair will practice today.
McNair hasn't practiced in three weeks and watched veteran Neil O'Donnell engineer a 33-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. His injuries include a strained right calf and a sprained left ankle with a cracked bone spur. "It felt good," McNair told the Associated Press. "I didn't feel any pain. I got a little fatigued, and that's normal when you haven't done anything in three weeks. That's going to come as I continue every day to improve and build up the strength in it. It's going to be fine."
ACCOLADES: Jamal Lewis was named the NFL's offensive player of the month after gaining 624 yards on 103 carries with six touchdowns. Lewis averaged 156 yards a game, 6.1 per attempt for the AFC North champions. Ray Lewis was named the AFC defensive player of the week for the second time this year after collecting 15 tackles with an interception against Pittsburgh. He had 225 tackles this season to break his own career mark from the 1997 season.
OUT OF A JOB: Down the Beltway, the Washington Redskins are faced with yet another search for a head coach after Steve Spurrier's abrupt resignation. He put together a 12-20 record in two seasons after departing the highly-successful University of Florida program. "It's amazing, but that's the nature of the league," Billick said. "It's, 'What have you done for me lately?' There's a lot of lessons to be learned from that. It's a tough league and it's tough for a coach to go from college up to the pros. "Each game has its own nuances and it takes time to learn those nuances."
QUICK HITS: Several of the Ravens' coaches have been working around the clock, sleeping overnight in their offices. ... If the Ravens defeat the Titans on Saturday, they would play at New England in an 8 p.m. Saturday game on Jan. 10 or at Kansas City at 1 p.m. Sunday on Jan. 11. ... The Ravens have a plus-3 turnover ratio. The Titans are plus-13. ... Curiously, Baltimore is 6-2 when it loses the coin toss.
Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.