The New England Patriots are the NFL’s last remaining dynasty since the free-agency era, having won six titles since the turn of the century, but the Tennessee Titans are looking to do whatever it takes to make sure their run comes to an end.
Tennessee has a number of former New England staffers on its payroll, including head coach Mike Vrabel, who once played for the Patriots, and won multiple Super Bowls as a member of the team. The Titans will be looking to flip the script and shift the power in the AFC Playoffs, where the Patriots have been a shoo-in to reach the conference title game each passing year.
But this particular year feels different, as the Patriots suffered an embarrassing home loss to the previously four-win Dolphins on Sunday, ruining their chances of earning a first-round bye. It put a huge damper on the team’s Super Bowl hopes, as now one of the oldest rosters in the NFL must win three playoff games to even earn the right to appear in the Super Bowl. The Patriots have become accustomed to having an easy road in the postseason, as they had earned nine-straight first-round byes — until this year, when the Dolphins played spoiler, defeating them on their home soil.
Don’t sleep on the Titans, either. Running back Derrick Henry used a Week 17 second-half surge to capture the NFL’s 2019 rushing title, with 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns on the season. He’ll be pitted against a stout Patriots defensive front which ranks sixth against the run this season, giving up only 95.5 yards per game. As such, a lot of pressure will be on Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is 0-6 on the road during his NFL career in Foxboro, with 10 interceptions, and five touchdowns. Still, it’s important to point out that he’s enjoyed a career renaissance since joining the Titans, and has been far more effective operating under center in a balanced offense, rather than when he was with the Dolphins.
On the other side of the ball, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady may be 42 years of age, but he has six Super Bowl rings, and both he and head coach Bill Belichick seem to thrive on adversity. As such, the Patriots can never be counted out of a playoff matchup, which is why they’re currently listed as 4.5-point favorites in the game. Still, the Titans drew a lot of early action from bettors, as the Patriots opened as six-point chalk, but were bet down quickly. It will be interesting to see which team imposes its will and controls the trenches, in what figures to be a low-scoring affair on Saturday night.