Written by Cody Manning
Previous Matchup: Week 15 of the 2015 season was the last time Titans and Patriots last faced each other. The Patriots won the matchup easily, 33–16, as Marcus Mariota went down with an injury early in the game. The Titans finished with Zach Mettenberger at quarterback who posted 242 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. It is interesting that the Titans were led by a quarterback, running back, and wide receiver who are no longer in the league. Antonio Andrews was their leading rusher with only 45 yards while Dorial Green-Beckham led all receivers with 113 yards. The Patriots were led by their staple, Tom Brady, who had 267 yards and two touchdowns on the day. They were also led by two players in rushing and receiving who aren’t on their roster right now. Joey Iosefa had 51 rushing yards and Brandon LaFell finished with 88 receiving yards.
Offense: This matchup will contain the number one offense in the league, the Patriots, who averaged 394.2 YPG and 28.6 PPG. They also really don’t have any weaknesses as they finished 2nd in passing, where they averaged 276.1 YPG and in the top ten for rushing, averaging 118.1 YPG. I don’t have to go into detail, because we all know how great Tom Brady is in the playoffs, specially at home. I expect a healthy dose of Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks in their passing game. The Titans struggled last week when Travis Kelce was still on the field. When he left it was noticeable, so I think the Patriots will try to mimic what the Chiefs did in the first half, when they were attacking the Titans defense with Kelce and Tyreek Hill.
The Titans will be entering the game with a below-average offense, where they finished 23rd in total yards, averaging 314 YPG. This was on display when Tennessee was held to only three points in the first half versus the Chiefs. If their offense plays like they did in the second half of the game, then they could give themselves a chance to win this game. It will be up to their two young studs — Marcus Mariota and Derrick Henry — once again if they want to win a playoff game on the road.
The Titans could end up giving the Patriots fits on Saturday night if they can play at their best during all four quarters. Mariota is going to want to use his mobility to give himself an advantage and keep the Patriots defense on their toes at all times. They have nothing to lose, so why not go out and have some fun in Foxborough. But in the end, it doesn’t even matter. We are talking Tom Brady and the Patriots offense in the playoffs. I will take my chances with that squad.
Defense: The Patriots defense is quite opposite of their offense this season. While they are the number one seed in the AFC, they still have questions on their defense. Their defense finished in the bottom five for total yards, as New England gave up an average of 366 YPG. They have a bottom three pass defense as opponents threw for an average of 251.3 YPG, and they found themselves in the bottom half of the league in stopping the run. The most interesting stat on their defense is that they finished 5th in PPG allowed — teams only averaged 18.5 PPG against the Pats. You can gain all the yards you want on a team, but if you can’t get points on the board then odds won’t be in your favor.
The Titans defense ranks in the top half of the league. Tennessee gave up an average of 328 PPG, but their pass and rush defense are on different spectrums. They have a top five rush defense, where they only give up 88.8 YPG. While the Chiefs could have given him the ball more, it still showed when leading rusher Kareem Hunt was held to only 42 yards last week. The Titans passing defense is suspect as they gave up 239.3 YPG. They will be looking to Kevin Byard and Adoree Jackson to make some plays if they don’t want to be shredded by Brady.
While the Patriots gave up all those yards this season, their defense has one thing on their side that you can’t doubt: Bill Belichick. He always comes up with some new game plan to make things difficult for the other team. I wouldn’t be surprised if he throws new kinks out there to make the young Mariota second guess himself. But, overall, the Titans had a better defense throughout the season, plus they are coming off from shutting out the Chiefs in the 2nd half of last week’s game. I don’t end up giving them all the advantages, so I will give them this one.
Special Teams: All respect to Ryan Succop, the Patriots have one of the best kickers in the NFL with Stephen Gostkowski. If this comes down to making a game-winning field goal in the playoffs, then I will take my chances with him. The Titans have a threat in the return game with Adoree Jackson. He could easily change the momentum to the Titans with one return. But, Belichick is obsessed with special teams, which is why this squad always seems to find a way to make a play to change a game.
Coaching: I feel like I could copy and paste my coaching section from my Titans-Chiefs preview from last week here. Mike Mularkey managed to prove me wrong and led his team to an upset in Arrowhead. He put away all the rumors of his demise with the win and kept his job. Kudos to Coach Mularkey. But we are talking Bill Belichick here. Do I need to say more on this?
Prediction: Imagine, Mariota and Henry run all over the Patriots defense, Corey Davis lives up to his 5th selection of the 2017 Draft, and the Titans defense finds a way to shut down Brady. The Titans go to the AFC Championship Game! This could happen, but let’s live in the real world here. We all know the Patriots always find a way to win. The Titans may keep it interesting throughout the game, but I see the Patriots winning this game with ease.
Patriots win 31–17