The Tennessee Titans pulled off a surprise victory last week in Kansas City, albeit a controversial one. While the surprise Titans are thrilled to move on, they now face a nearly insurmountable task.
The New England Patriots come into this contest as the AFC’s top-seeded team. They’re also trying to defend their Super Bowl title from last year.
Few expect Tennessee to derail this mission, especially since they barely even made it into the playoffs. But do the Titans have a miracle up their sleeve?
Let’s discuss the matter by looking at the GTBets odds on this game along with who has the best chance to cover the spread.
Odds for Patriots Titans in AFC Divisional Round (Jan 13 at 8:15pm ET)
Tennessee vs New England Point Spread
Titans +13.5 (-115)
Patriots -13.5 (-105)
Tennessee vs New England Moneyline
Over 48.5 (-107)
Under 48.5 (-113)
Key Factors for Tennessee (10-7)
But it only gets worse as they prepare for their January contest in Foxbourgh. Things look more dismal when considering how inconsistent Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has been this season.
The third-year pro out of Oregon was above average against the Chiefs. He threw for 205 yards, rushed for another 46, and caught one of his own passes for a touchdown. But Mariota also threw an interception and didn’t have any spectacular throws.
The key for Mariota will be to turn in a solid game with no turnovers. Tennessee is already up against a wall. And they don’t need to give the ball away and make things any harder on themselves. Luckily for Mariota, New England has failed to force a turnover in three of its past four games.
Head coach Mike Mularkey will rely on running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to keep the pressure off his QB. The two combined for 1,403 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Murray added 39 catches for 266 yards and another TD.
Tennessee has an underrated defense, namely due to a lack of big-name stars. But this isn’t to say that the Titans don’t have some good talent. LB Wesley Woodard racked up 124 tackles, while Kevin Byard intercepted eight passes en route to first-team All-Pro honors.
The Titans have held six of their last eight opponents under 100 rushing yards. They also limited opponents to less than 200 passing yards during this span too.
Nobody expects the Titans to shut down the Patriots. But their defense could at least make things tougher on New England. The key is that they must be able to stick with tight end Rob Gronkwoski, who has the ability to dominate the middle of the field when covered by average linebackers.
The ideal scenario for Tennessee would be to make this an ugly defensive contest, while controlling the clock with a strong run game. If they can enforce their tempo, then perhaps they pull off one of the biggest upsets in recent playoffs history.
Key Factors for New England (13-3)
But this isn’t the same Brady who has routinely torn up defenses in seasons’ past. Instead, he’s a 40-year-old who’s been showing his age in the second half of the season.
Brady has now thrown an interception in each of his last five game. He’s taken a lot of hits in the pocket and is having a tougher time than ever completing passes.
Will we see the typical Brady who’s always able to find a soft spot in the defense? Or will he continue to make us realize that father time gets every player, even the best of the best?
Another key for New England is how well they run against the Titans’ front seven. As mentioned before, Tennessee has done a good job of holding opponents under triple-digit rushing yards.
But even if Tennessee does succeed in slowing the run game, they also have to watch out for these running backs catching passes. New England led the league in receiving yards by running backs (957), while the Titans are the worst at defending this category (967). Don’t be surprised if Brady finds his running backs again and again for short, but effective gains.
Odds are that coach Bill Belichick will find out exactly where Tennessee’s defense is vulnerable. And with the home field advantage also in their back pocket, New England shouldn’t have much trouble advancing in this one.
Prediction on Tennessee vs New England
The Titan beating New England would be an incredible story. After all, this team snuck into the postseason with a 9-7 record, then got a surprise victory against the Chiefs.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, this story is very unlikely to play out at Gillette Stadium. New England may show a little bit of rest in the first quarter since they didn’t play last week. But there’s no way that the Titans outplay this team for four quarters.
The only suspense will be in which team covers the spread. The Patriots have a tall task in trying to win by almost two touchdowns. This is an incredibly hard thing to do in playoff football, even when you’re favored and playing at home.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the motivated Titans keep this one within 10 points.
Final Score Prediction: New England 27, Tennessee 16 – Titans cover +13.5 spread