Titans, Panthers enter playoffs

Published 10:04 pm Friday, January 9, 2009

Baltimore (12-5) at Tennessee (13-3) – 4:30 p.m.

The last time the Titans were 13-3 and the top seed in the AFC playoffs, Baltimore beat the Titans and the Ravens eventually rode their defense to a Super Bowl title over the Giants.

It’s been eight seasons, but looking at the overall picture, not a lot has changed for the Ravens. Baltimore allows 15.3 points per game. The Titans are even stingier, allowing 14.6 points per game. A bit more recently, Tennessee beat Baltimore 13-10 in week five.

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The Raven defense, led by last week’s prime example from Ed Reed, is the best in the league at making a game-changing play out of nowhere. The Titan defense has the best front four in the league. Most notably with Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch, 39.5 of Tennessee’s 44 sacks are from defensive linemen.

Line – Titans by 3

My pick – Titans 21-17

Arizona (10-7) at Carolina (12-4) – 8:15 p.m.

The Cardinals head east, which has been awful news for them all year. Arizona’s 0-6 in the eastern time zone this season, including a 27-23 loss at Carolina on Oct. 26. At least the Cards don’t have to go north at the same time, but the game-time forecast is 40 degrees and probable rain.

The Panthers are undefeated at home this season, winning the eight games by a 15.4-point average.

If the Panthers have a weakness, it is in their secondary. If the rain is around for most of the game, that could neutralize Arizona’s only serious strength, Kurt Warner throwing to Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston.

Carolina’s Jake Delhomme has been an underrated quarterback his whole career. Delhomme’s 22 games over .500 in his six years with Carolina and 5-2 in the playoffs. Delhomme can make all the throws when the pressure’s on, plus he’s got a lot more help than Warner with backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

Line – Carolina by 10

My pick – Panthers 27-14

Last week – 2-2