Saturday night’s edition of NFL Playoff football features one coach going head to head with his mentor. Mike Vrabel will take his upstart Titans squad into the belly of the beat in Foxborough to take on the head coach who helped mold him in the form of Bill Belichick.
Predictably, oddsmakers see New England as strong favorites. If you want to take the Patriots to cover you need to be willing to sacrifice 5.5 points to make your wager. The Titans come in as pronounced underdogs, but don’t overlook just how well Tennessee runs the football. If Derrick Henry can get going, he can cause real problems for the vaunted Patriots’ defense.
By now, you should be quite familiar with our exclusive Statschecker site for the match-up. If you haven’t been checking it out during the regular season, any money you’ve lost on football this year is on you. At the very least, make sure you correct your behavior in the postseason by diving into the site for yourself. This piece will give you five interesting facts about Saturday night’s clash, but you need to read for yourself to gain all of the helpful information we offer.
The Patriots don’t lose at home in the playoffs
To say that home field advantage is important to New England in the postseason would be a serious understatement. Belichick’s team has racked up nine consecutive wins in Gillette Season during the playoffs. The Titans will need to mount a heroic effort if they want to snap this intimidating win streak.
Derrick Henry is the key for Tennessee
If the Titans have any hope of all of pulling off this big upset, they need their star running back to come up huge. Fortunately for Vrabel and his coaching staff, Henry has scored two or more touchdowns in three of his last four road games.
Of course, the Patriots front seven will be primed and ready to stack the box against Tennessee’s run game. Henry isn’t the quickest back, so he needs to build momentum in the backfield to run effectively. Look for New England to scheme a lot of early run blitzes to try to stop Henry before he can get his body moving forward.
A.J. Brown is step two for the Titans
The offensive game plan won’t be overly complicated. Vrabel and his staff will try to establish Henry and the run game early. They will follow that up by taking shots down the field to A.J. Brown in space.
Brown comes into the match-up on the back of a four-game scoring stream. New England will deploy Stephon Gilmore in an effort to slow the former Ole Miss star down. That’s going to turn out to be a really tough match-up for Brown. Anything the Titans get from Brown will be crucial to their success.
This game has shootout potential
The Patriots offense has struggled at times this season, but New England has still managed to average 26.3 points per game this season. Lots of NFL coaches would love to see their offense “struggle” like the Patriots have this year.
The Titans are scoring more points than you might expect too. Ryan Tannehill’s insertion into the lineup has keyed the Tennessee offense to a prolific scoring average of 25.1 points per game in their own right. Don’t rule out the chances of this game turning into an old-fashioned shootout. If that happens, bet on Tom Brady to outgun Tannehill.
Don’t forget about the Patriots defense
This is probably the best defensive unit Belichick has crafted in New England. They come into the playoffs giving up a paltry 14.1 points per game. The Titans can’t win the game if they’re held to anything less than 14 points.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the Titans actually need this game to turn into a track meet. If it’s a game where one or two throws make the difference, then Brady will be the difference. If the Titans can keep the Patriots defense off balance, they have a chance to steal a win late.
Don’t trust Ryan Tannehill
Tannehill deserves a ton of credit for how well he’s played for the Titans this season. They almost certainly wouldn’t be in the postseason without him.
That doesn’t mean you should trust him to win you money on Saturday night. It’s far more likely that he’ll be exposed as the weak link of the Tennessee offense. Look for Belichick and company to put him in difficult positions over and over again. The Titans have a chance to cover, but expecting them to win is foolish. Lean towards the Patriots here and give up the points.