Can the Titans pull off another major upset on the road?
The Titans pulled off an epic rally last Saturday to upset the Chiefs in the Wild Card Round. Now they’ll have to defeat another favored opponent who knows a little something about monumental playoff comebacks — the New England Patriots. The two teams will meet on Saturday in the Divisional Round; kickoff is set for 8:15 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on CBS (live stream).
Tennessee trailed 21-3 at halftime before snapping to life in the third quarter. Third-year quarterback Marcus Mariota had a modest performance through the air, but his will to win manifested itself on the ground, with important yard-churning blocks, and even as a receiver for his own batted pass as the Titans clawed back to devastate Kansas City. He’ll need to be even better on Saturday to topple a Patriot defense left with plenty to prove.
New England’s 2-2 start was defined by its cheesecloth defense. The Pats gave up a league-high 32 points per game and threw the Belichick-Brady dynasty into question before rebounding to become the league’s stingiest unit. Since Week 5, no team in the NFL has allowed fewer points than New England’s 14.0 per game. Brady’s team is 11-1 in that span.
That leaves Mariota and his offense an even taller task than beating the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium. Foxborough will be rocking thanks to yet another home game for the Patriots. Will it be enough to negate the Titans’ momentum?
Time, TV channel, and streaming info
- Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
- Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
- TV: CBS
- Streaming: NFL on CBS
- Odds: New England is favored by 13.5 points.
Titans at Patriots news:
A report from ESPN’s Seth Wickersham says that tensions between the team’s twin icons, head coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady, have festered to the point that the situation might just be untenable going forward.
In the middle of it is Robert Kraft, the team’s owner, who inserted himself into the fray in a meeting with Belichick this season that ended with Kraft instructing his head coach to trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo,
- Marcus Mariota’s effort all over the field — including a touchdown pass to HIMSELF — pushed his Titans to an unlikely win last week.
- You know things are going well for the Patriots when fans’ biggest concern is how their former backup quarterback is doing.
To many Patriots fans, the Garoppolo trade was a shock when it happened. But looking closer at the circumstances of the deal — the Patriots’ most beloved backup quarterback of the Brady era (no disrespect to Ryan Mallett) for a 2018 second-round pick — they had no choice but to get him out of their division and the conference for some sort of return before he signed with a more direct competitor in free agency. Otherwise, they would be forced to spend upward of $ 22 million on him with a franchise tag to keep him on the roster next fall.
- The Titans’ reliance on a versatile running attack was the catalyst to last week’s comeback — and it’s the blueprint for the team’s future.
The change in offensive performance coincided with a change in approach from the Titans. They spent the majority of the third and fourth quarters in shotgun formations with 11-personnel, often in no-huddle with Mariota making calls and checks at the line. The playcalling also took a distinct turn — perhaps because Mariota appeared to be making many of the calls — featuring more read option run calls and more short-to-intermediate throws towards the middle of the field.
Is Tom Brady ready to rebound from a season-ending slump?
Brady remains a popular MVP pick, but he didn’t finish the season with a confidence-building performance. The 40-year-old quarterback threw six interceptions in his final six games — including a two-pick performance in the team’s surprising loss to the Dolphins. That ended an otherwise brilliant season on a sour note, but a solid Week 17 performance and a full two weeks to prepare should have him ready to face the league’s 25th-ranked passing defense.
Titans at Patriots prediction:
Every last one of our experts believe the Patriots will win this one. Check out all of their Divisional Round picks to see how they think the other games will go.