The New England Patriots were expected to be preparing to face the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, which would have made the week more interesting because the Chiefs embarrassed the Patriots at Gillette Stadium on opening night and would have given them a tough challenge this weekend.
Fortunately for the Patriots and their fans, the Chiefs couldn’t handle business and lost to the Tennessee Titans in a game they had in hand last week. Now, the Patriots will face the Titans instead of the Chiefs, which improved the Patriots odds for the game.
The Patriots and their fans are excited about the matchup because the Titans are a middling team at best and were on the verge of firing their head coach if they had lost to the Chiefs last week. While the win buys Mike Mularkey another season in charge at Tennessee, it won’t do much to save him from wrath of the Patriots.
New England already has a lot on their mind this week, after an ESPN report alleged that there was trouble in paradise due to an internal struggle between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Since the report was released, the team has denied there is any friction behind the scenes, and they are now expected to take all their frustrations out on Tennessee.
The Titans actually started the season strong, but faltered down the stretch. The team lost four of their final seven games of the year, and quarterback Marcus Mariota regressed this season, which made them big underdogs against the Chiefs and bigger ones against the Patriots.
The Patriots will have to pay a lot of attention to running back Derrick Henry, who was responsible for igniting the comeback against the Chiefs last week. Henry ran for 156 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries last week, and after a performance like that, you know the Titans are going to feed him the ball this week.
DeMarco Murray, who missed the game against Kansas City, is expected to be back this week, giving the Patriots another running back they have to worry about. Murray, who rushed for 659 yards and six touchdowns despite dealing with injuries during the season, will make the Patriots run defense earn their money this weekend.
If they can stop the run, the Patriots will be ab le to unleash their pass rush against Mariota. After an impressive first two seasons in the league, Mariota finished this season with a 79.3 passer rating thanks to his 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
One of the reasons why Mariota has been unable to progress is the fact that the Titans don’t have very good receivers. Tight end Delanie Walker has been Mariota’s security blanket this season, but Walker is getting up there in age and won’t be able to produce at the level he has since joining the Titans.
If the Titans don’t address their receiver position this offseason, expect Mariota’s numbers to be even worse next season.
The last time the Titans played the Patriots at Gillette Stadium was in 2015, and the team lost the game 33-16. This time around, the score might be closer but the result will be the same. The Patriots advance to the AFC Championship Game after this game.
Wild Card Playoffs
Gillette Stadium (@GilletteStadium) January 7, 2018