Wild-Card Matchup: Can the Pats stay alive against Tennessee?

For the first time in a decade, the Patriots will be playing on Wild Card Weekend, as they welcome the Tennessee Titans (9-7) for a Saturday night matchup in Gillette Stadium.

Even though New England is favored to win by 5 points, there are many pundits and analysts who believe that the Patriots Dynasty will come to an end tomorrow night.

Here are some things to consider entering this Wild Card matchup.

1. Can the offense deliver?

The Patriots’ offense has been inconsistent at best over the last few weeks, with a solid outing against the stout Bills defense in Week 16, before digging an early hole during a surprising loss to the Dolphins in Week 17. Tom Brady is likely itching to get out and play, due to the constant talk about his future in New England, and the surprising thought that he ranks last amongst all the quarterbacks in the playoffs. Unfortunately for #12, he is facing off against a team that features coaches who are very familiar with how he operates, as Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees were both part of the Patriots in the early 2000s. Brady will need all the help he can get if the Patriots hope to emerge victorious tomorrow.

Tennessee features a dynamic defensive line, which gave the Patriots massive problems during a dominant 34-10 Titans victory in 2018. The Patriots offensive line will need to be at the top of their game if they want to keep Brady upright. In addition, the Patriots’ receiving corps (mainly N’Keal Harry and Mohamed Sanu) has to get separation and make plays down the field in order to help out Brady and Julian Edelman.

The Patriots will also have to focus on producing a solid rushing attack, as the forecast calls for precipitation throughout tomorrow’s game (which may make it tougher to throw the ball down the field). I believe that Josh McDaniels and his staff have to focus on getting Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead involved from the get-go, as it will help take pressure off of Brady and the passing game, and punish Tennessee if they opt to send blitz packages.

If the Patriots want to have the chance to defend their Super Bowl title, they will need to have a great outing by their offense.

tb vs titans pwc19
(Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Will the defense rebound from last week’s debacle?

The most shocking aspect of last week’s loss to Miami was the fact that the seemingly stout Patriots’ defense fell apart against an offensive attack led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, with Stephon Gilmore getting absolutely bullied by DeVante Parker throughout the game. For the first time all season, the Patriots’ defense let down the offense, as they were unable to hold their late lead, which resulted in the team losing their first round bye.

New England has a quick turnaround, as they face a talented Titans’ offense that features playmakers such as Derrick Henry and AJ Brown. Henry led the NFL in rushing yards, and is a downhill runner that will likely give the Patriots problems (as evidenced by their struggles against Baltimore, Cleveland, and Cincinnati). Due to the forecast, it wouldn’t be surprising if Tennessee opts to feed Henry early and often, which could wear out the Patriots’ defense and keep Tom Brady on the sideline.

One of the most surprising stories of this season was the reemergence of Ryan Tannehill as a viable starting quarterback, as he led the Titans to 7 wins after replacing Marcus Mariota as the team’s starter. Similarly to his head coach, Tannehill is familiar with playing in Gillette Stadium, due to his years in Miami, which could indicate that he won’t be as intimidated as your typical quarterback making their first career start in the postseason.

Stopping AJ Brown will need to be of the utmost importance, as the rookie receiver has flashed his big play potential all throughout this season. Stephon Gilmore and the other cornerbacks will need to bounce back with a vengeance to stifle Brown, Corey Davis and the rest of Tennessee’s receivers.

The Patriots’ strength has been their defense, and they will need to find their rhythm once again if they hope to advance to the next round.

derrick henry vs pats pwc19
(Photo via the Tennessee Titans)

 

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Ja’Whaun Bentley (knee) – Questionable
  • Terrence Brooks (groin) – Questionable
  • Jamie Collins Sr. (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (knee/shoulder) – Questionable
  • Jonathan Jones (groin) – Questionable
  • Jason McCourty (groin) – Questionable

Titans

  • Adam Humphries (ankle) – Out
  • Kalif Raymond (concussion) – Doubtful
  • Cody Hollister (ankle) – Questionable
  • Dane Cruikshank (illness) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 27, Titans 23

Here are my picks for the rest of the Wild Card Weekend.

Last week: 10-6

Bills at Texans: Texans

Vikings at Saints: Vikings

Seahawks at Eagles: Seahawks

Music City Blues!: Pats get pounded by the Titans

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

TEN 17 7 3 7 34

NE

3 7 0 0 10

The Patriots’ 6-game winning streak was snapped today in Nashville, as they were routed 34-10 by the Tennessee Titans (5-4). The Pats fall to 7-3, which increases the gap between them and the AFC leading Kansas City Chiefs (9-1). Tennessee was able to outplay the Patriots in all 3 phases of the game.

Here are some takeaways from today’s loss.

1. Tennessee’s defense dominated the Brady Bunch

The Titans entered this game as the NFL’s top scoring defense, and they did not disappoint, as they limited the Patriots to a season low 10 points. Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees were able to craft a game plan to get after Tom Brady and constantly disrupt his mechanics and timing. Tennessee halted any momentum the Pats’ offensive line had had prior to today, as they were able to frequently penetrate through the middle and stifle the offense.

Julian Edelman was one of the sole bright spots for the offense, as he corralled 9 catches for 104 yards and was frequently a security blanket for Brady. Unfortunately, Edelman took a beating throughout the game, and left the game in the fourth quarter due to an ankle injury. Josh Gordon had 4 catches for 81 yards, but a finger injury suffered last week definitely affected his ability to catch, as he dropped a key pass in the first half that halted a drive that could have allowed the Patriots to tie the game early on. The rushing game was utterly non-existent for the Pats, as Sony Michel had only 31 yards (off 11 carries) in his return from injury.

The Pats need to reevaluate their offensive game plan to ensure their success as the season progresses.

offense v titanw s10.jpg
(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

2. The defense got overwhelmed

Marcus Mariota had his best game of the season as he had 228 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mariota and Corey Davis (7 receptions for 125 yards and 1 touchdown) combined to make life miserable for the Patriots, as they were able to efficiently stretch the field at will. Following a series of remarkable performances, Stephon Gilmore had a clunker today, as he was frequently beat by Davis, and committed a few penalties.

The defense was not much better at stopping the run, as they gave up 150 yards, with Derrick Henry (11 carries for 58 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Dion Lewis (20 carries for 57 yards) leading the way for Tennessee.

It was disappointing to see the Pats take a step back on defense, but I have faith in their ability to bounce back from this.

pats defense v titansw10.jpg
(Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

3. Special teams was dreadful as well

Special teams was a disaster for the Patriots, as big kickoff returns and punt returns enabled the Titans to start drives with great field position. For example, the Titans opened the game with a 58-yard kickoff return on their way to a opening drive touchdown. At one point in the game, the Titans’ average starting field position was at the Pats’ 42 yard line, while the Pats started at their own 24.

Games such as the Pats’ Week 7 win at Chicago can show the impact of a great performance on special teams.

special teams w10.jpg
(Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

4. Inability to beat teams with familiar faces

2 of the Patriots’ losses this year have been at teams coached by ex-Patriots ( Week 3 at Detroit and today against Tennessee). Both games were similar, as Brady got constantly hounded, while the defense could not stop the pass or run. It appears as if Matt Patricia and Mike Vrabel are very familiar with the chinks in the Pats’ armor.

This factor makes today’s loss less concerning, even though the Pats definitely have their work cut out for them.

vrabel brady.jpg
(Photo via the AP)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 21/41 for 254 yards
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 11 carries for 31 yards
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 9 catches for 104 yards
  • Defense: Kyle Van Noy – 13 tackles

Titans

  • Passing: 16/24 for 228 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Derrick Henry – 11 carries for 58 yards
  • Receiving: Corey Davis – 7 catches for 125 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Defense: Wesley Woodyard – 10 tackles (including 1.5 sacks)

 

What’s next?: The Pats head into their much needed bye week before heading to New York to face the hated Jets (3-7) on November 25th during Week 12.

Clashing with the Titans!

This Sunday, the Patriots head down to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans (4-4) in a rematch of last year’s AFC divisional round game. The Pats enter this contest at 7-2, with hopes of keeping pace with the conference-leading Chiefs.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 10 matchup.

1. The offense faces a tough matchup in Tennessee

The Patriots’ offense has really found its rhythm in recent weeks, as they’ve figured out a way to shuffle their personnel in order to make up for injuries (specifically Rob Gronkowski and Sony Michel). Tom Brady has been able to rely on the duo of Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon to move the ball down the field and the running back combination of James White and Cordarrelle Patterson has proven to be extremely potent for the team.

This week’s matchup will be challenging as they take on the NFL’s top scoring defense in the Titans, who have a swarming defensive line and a great group of linebackers. For the Pats to be successful, they will need to target the Titans’ susceptible secondary.

pats titans preview
(Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe)

2. Will the Pats’ defense continue to succeed?

The Patriots’ defense appeared to turn a corner during last week’s victory against the Packers, as they got after Aaron Rodgers and limited Green Bay to 17 points. One of the key factors in the victory was the pass rush’s ability to keep Rodgers in the pocket, with Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn leading the way. That will be essential to replicate this week as they face off with the mobile Marcus Mariota, who is coming off a performance in Dallas where he was able to dissect the Cowboys’ defense with his ability to run for first downs. The Pats will also need to fortify the line of scrimmage to combat the efficient combination of Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry.

Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty have also been essential cogs in the secondary’s revitalization over the last few weeks, and if they continue to play well on Sunday, the Pats will have a good chance of emerging victorious in Nashville.

mariota v pats w10 pre.png
(Adam Richins/ Boston Sports Journal)

3. Facing off against ex-Patriots

The Pats will be taking on familiar faces this Sunday when they head to Tennessee. As mentioned earlier, Dion Lewis has become an essential part of the Titans’ offense, after 3 seasons with the Patriots. Lewis is not missed in New England, because James White has emerged into a true #1 back for Josh McDaniels’ offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Titans feature 2 ex-Patriot cornerbacks in Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. Ryan left the Patriots following their victory in Super Bowl LI, while Butler left following the loss in Super Bowl LII. Ryan was a great contributor for the Pats, but was replaced during the 2017 off-season with the signing of Stephon Gilmore. Butler’s departure from New England was much more controversial due to him being benched during Super Bowl LII, which made several pundits question how the Pats’ secondary function without him. Bill Belichick’s decision to move on from Butler has appeared to be wise so far, as Butler has given up 7 touchdowns in 8 games.

The Titans are coached by Mike Vrabel who was a linebacker on the Patriots for 8 seasons, and won 3 Super Bowls with the team. This will be the first time Bill Belichick coaches against a former player.

butler lewis .jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Trent Brown (illness) – Questionable
  • *Rob Gronkowski (ankle/knee) – Out
  • Dont’a Hightower (knee) – Questionable
  • Jacob Hollister (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Shaq Mason (calf) – Questionable
  • **Sony Michel (knee) – Will play

Titans

  • Jack Conklin (concussion) – Out
  • Dane Cruikshank (knee) – Questionable
  • Taywan Taylor (foot) – Questionable
  • Derrick Morgan (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Tajae Sharpe (ankle) – Questionable
  • Bennie Logan (knee) – Questionable

Prediction: Patriots 28, Titans 17

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 10 contests (excluding Thursday Night Football)

Last week: 8-4

Saints at Bengals: Saints

Falcons at Browns: Falcons

Lions at Bears: Bears

Cardinals at Chiefs: Chiefs

Redskins at Buccaneers: Buccaneers

Bills at Jets: Jets

Jaguars at Colts: Colts

Chargers at Raiders: Chargers

Seahawks at Rams: Rams

Dolphins at Packers: Packers

Cowboys at Eagles: Eagles

Giants at 49ers: 49ers

* and ** – Updated on game day based on information released by the Patriots

The Pats vanquish the Titans to advance to the AFC Title Game

 

Team 1 2 3 4 T
TEN 7 0 0 7 14
NE 0 21 7 7 35

The Patriots thoroughly dominated the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night, easily winning the divisional round contest 35-14. The Pats fell behind early, but rattled off 35 straight points to help them secure their seventh straight appearance in the AFC Championship Game.

Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Brady is back!

Brady had a shaky end to the 2017 regular season, as he had several uneven performances which featured uncharacteristic mistakes by #12. Brady erupted against the hapless Titans secondary, throwing for over 300 yards and three scores. TB12 looked comfortable in the pocket, and was not sacked by Tennessee. Many pundits in the media wondered how Brady and the Pats would respond to the outside noise regarding the alleged rift between TB12 and Bill Belichick, and the 40-year-old quarterback was able to silence his doubters with a vintage performance. If Brady continues to play at this level, it will be very hard for opposing defenses to stop the Patriots.

tb v titans.jpg
(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

2. The Super Bowl LI heroes strike again!

Back in last February’s Super Bowl LI, the Patriots completed a monster comeback with the help of playmakers such as Danny Amendola and James White, who scored all of the team’s points (other than 2 field goals). Both of them were back at it today, with Amendola corralling 11 catches for 112 yards, and White scoring on both a rushing and a passing touchdown. White was inactive down the stretch for the Patriots during the regular season, and his presence clearly helped the Patriots last night.

white v titans.jpg
(Photo by the AP)

3. Don’t count out the Patriots defense

Similarly to last year’s Super Bowl squad, the 2017-18 Pats’ defense has been unheralded all season, with most skeptics believing that their supposed inability to stop the run and get after the quarterback would doom them in the playoffs. The Patriots’ defense was dominant throughout last night’s game, as they sacked Marcus Mariota 8 times, and held Derrick Henry to 12 carries for 28 yards. After giving up a touchdown in the first quarter, the Pats didn’t give up a point until garbage time in the fourth quarter. If the Patriots’ defense continues to play like this, they will have a good chance of defending their title.

pats d vs titans.jpg
(Photo by David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

What’s next: The Pats will play the winner of today’s bout between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Clash with the Titans

The Blitz for Six continues today when the Patriots take on the Tennessee Titans in their Divisional Round matchup. Fresh off their first-round bye, the Pats hope to advance to the AFC Championship Game with a win against Tennessee.

Here are a few things to look forward to entering today’s game.

1. Does experience really matter in the playoffs?

Most of the players on the Patriots are experienced in the playoffs, and were a part of the last 2 Super Bowl runs. On the other hand, the Titans have very few players with actual playoff experience, and are heavy underdogs in Foxborough. However, anything can happen in the playoffs, and the Patriots should be careful to avoid overlooking the pesky Titans.

tb sb51 dr.jpg
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

2. Stopping the run

The Patriots have struggled stopping the run throughout the season, and have been gashed by prominent rushers such as Le’veon Bell and Kareem Hunt. Today’s task won’t be much easier, with the behemoth Derrick Henry coming to town. Henry pounded through the Kansas City Chiefs last week, totaling over 156 yards on the ground. Henry’s imposing physique allows him to wear down defenses, as shown by the fact that he leads the NFL in fourth quarter rushing. The Pats will also have to contend with the threat that Marcus Mariota presents due to his ability to scramble outside of the pocket. Preventing Mariota from making plays with his feet will make it much easier for the Pats to win the game.

derrick henry.jpg
(Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports)

3. Gronk vs the Tennessee defense

Rob Gronkowski was absolutely brilliant for the Patriots in the last half of the regular season (apart from the season finale against the Jets), as he tore apart opposing defenses. Gronk may be happy with this week’s matchup, after watching Kansas City’s Travis Kelce have his way with the Tennessee defense. Kelce only played for half of his team’s loss against the Titans, but was able to wrack up over 60 receiving yards and a touchdown. Gronk should be able to have a field day if Tennessee gives him room across the field.

brady gronk dr.jpeg
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

PredictionPatriots 34, Titans 18