Patriots Host Titans In Pressure-Filled Wild Card Matchup
Coming off of an embarrassing loss, the Patriots will look to continue their historic playoff success
Titans (9-7) at Patriots (12-4)
Saturday 1/4, 8:15pm EST
- The New England Patriots (12-4) host the Tennessee Titans (9-7) in the Wild Card Round of the AFC Playoffs.
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- The Patriots enter this matchup with the following records: 12-4 overall, 9-7 against the spread, 6-2 at home (5-3 ATS) and they were the favorites in all 16 of their regular-season games.
- The Titans enter this matchup with the following records: 9-7 overall, 8-7-1 against the spread, 5-3 on the road (5-3 ATS) and 3-3 as underdogs (3-3 ATS).
- Scroll down to check out our Titans Patriots preview and prediction!
The Titans punched their ticket into the playoffs with a 35-14 victory over the Houston Texans in Week 17. While Houston rested their main starters (including Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins), a win is a win and Tennessee is in. En route to the victory, Derrick Henry rushed for 210 yards and three touchdowns to capture the NFL’s rushing title, becoming the third Titans player to do so since 1970. It’s clear that Tennessee’s offense relies on establishing the run particularly through Henry and that gameplan will likely be utilized once again in this matchup. Rookie wideout A.J. Brown also had an historic season, becoming the first player in NFL history to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards on fewer than 94 targets (he did so in 84). Brown’s big-play ability was evident all season and he has a clear connection with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who brought Tennessee’s offense to new heights after taking over for Marcus Mariota earlier in the year. Tannehill has a history against New England from his days with the Miami Dolphins and has gone 4-7 against them in 11 career starts (which is somewhat decent given the dominance that the Pats have exhibited over the rest of the AFC East in the Tom Brady Era). Tannehill will have to be at his best and Tennessee’s offensive line will have to open up holes for Henry if the Titans expect to have a chance in this matchup. Overall, the Titans rank 10th in offensive scoring (24.5 points per game) and 13th in defensive scoring (allowing 21.1 points per contest).
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. With a first-round bye on the line, New England stunk it up and suffered an embarrassing home loss against the Miami Dolphins in Week 17. It was sloppy. It was uncharacteristic. It raised some legitimate concerns. Tom Brady looks like he is finally regressing with age, the lack of elite talent at offensive skill positions (particularly at wide receiver) are evident and Josh McDaniels’ offense is simply not explosive or the machine it’s been in recent years. Julian Edelman has been Brady’s only consistent target this year and he will likely see double-digit targets in this contest. Defensively, this New England team has stifled opponents all season long. They lead the league in a ton of categories on that side of the ball, and even though they’ve had a few hiccups (like in Week 17), their ball-hawking, pressure-oriented philosophy could give this Titans offense some trouble, especially if Henry can’t find consistent holes and if Brown can’t get open against Stephon Gilmore, who will likely shadow him. Gilmore is the Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner and has legitimately shut down everyone he’s faced this year. Bill Belichick’s known defensive strategy is to take away the opposing team’s biggest threat. While tackling Henry will be a team effort, expect Gilmore and the Patriots safeties to limit Brown’s big-play ability. Overall, the Patriots rank 6th in offensive scoring (26.4 points per game) and 1st in defensive scoring (allowing 13.2 points per contest).
At the end of the day, it’s difficult to gloss over the fact that in Belichick’s tenure as head coach of the Patriots, he has gone 30-10 in the playoffs and has won six of nine Super Bowl appearances. While New England is coming off of an embarrassing home loss to the Dolphins and their defensive dominance somewhat faded as the season rolled along, betting against Belichick and Brady is a risky proposition based on their unparalleled track record.
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