The Titans escaped Kansas City last weekend in the Wildcard Round of the NFL Playoffs, thanks to a miraculous comeback, but now they have to travel to Foxborough to take on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots Saturday night.
Tennessee was down 21-3 at halftime in K.C. last week, but converted all 7 third downs in the second half on their way to scoring 19 unanswered points to upset the Chiefs. Beating Alex Smith in the playoffs is one thing, but beating Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the Patriots in the playoffs is a completely different animal.
The Titans defense will have to rise up like they did in the second half last weekend for them to be able to stay in the game. Brady has made a living carving up NFL secondaries, and he turns it up to a completely different level in the playoffs.
New England’s average margin of victory this season is 10 points, and they have the second highest scoring offense in the league. Brady is averaging 274 yards per game through the air, and his favorite target is Rob Gronkowski. Gronk has over 1,000 receiving yards this season to go along with his 8 touchdown receptions. He has the size and strength of the most physical tight end in the NFL, but his athletic ability makes him almost impossible to cover.
The bulk of the Patriots offense comes through the air, but the Titans can’t forget about New England’s running game. Dion Lewis is averaging 5 yards per carry, and backup running back Mike Gillislee is not too shabby either. The Pats have 16 rushing touchdowns on the season so if Tennessee over-commits to the pass, New England will burn them on the ground.
The Titans cannot afford to fall behind by double digits again this week, or the Pats will run them off the field by halftime. Hopefully last weekend took care of all the postseason jitters, and Tennessee can be ready play from the opening kick.
DeMarco Murray has just been ruled out for Saturday’s game so Derrick Henry will have to be the guy to take a lot of the load off Marcus Mariota again this week. Henry showed out in a big way last week, and he will be relied on even heavier this weekend. The Titans cannot rely on Mariota’s arm to get them to the AFC Championship so Derrick Henry might have to go for a buck fifty again this Saturday.
Guys like Eric Decker have to be able to help their quarterback out. Decker caught the game-winning touchdown pass last week, but he had a costly drop earlier the game that 100% should have been caught. Any wasted opportunities will comeback to bury Tennessee this week.
The X-factor this week is Marcus Mariota’s legs. Mariota almost has to escape the pocket and break off a couple of big runs. He has not had a great season throwing the ball, but picking up a couple of first downs with his legs will be key for the Titans to find a way to win.
The game will kickoff from Gillette Stadium at 7:15 CT Saturday night, and will be aired on CBS.