The Titans defeated the Houston Texans Sunday to secure their place as the final wild card. It was the first win on the road against Houston since 2012. With the Patriots surprising loss to the Dolphins in their season finale, the Titans will travel to Boston now for the first game.
How We Got Here
The Titans got off to a rough start to begin the season. They lost both divisional games as well as an embarrassing shutout to Denver. In that game, Mike Vrabel made what has turned out to be the most important coaching decision of the season. He switched quarterbacks.
Ryan Tannehill took over for five-year starter and second overall draft pick Marcus Mariota. The change ruffled some feathers at first but plenty of fans realized the sense of urgency the offense had been lacking all year. A change was needed.
It was a struggle but Tannehill and the Titans finished the season 7-3, good enough for the playoffs. It was an uphill fight from the gate. In the first game, the Titans took the Chargers all the way down to a goalline stand in the 4th as time ran down. Without that win, the playoffs don’t happen.
Since 1990 just 8.6% of teams to have started the season 2-4 have made the playoffs. The Titans did it with their backup quarterback. It is the first playoff appearance since 2017. The Titans defeated the Kansas City Chiefs before losing at the Patriots.
New England Patriots: 12-4, AFC East Champs
It’s no surprise to find the New England Patriots back in the playoffs. The Patriots have missed the playoffs just two times since winning the Super Bowl in 2001.
Tom Brady once again commands an offense that largely revolves around his success. Brady has the seventh most passing yards in the NFL with 4,057 yards. His favorite target is Julian Edelman who has the most receiving yards on the team by far at 1,117.
The Patriots defense is far and away the best in the league this season. They lead the NFL in points allowed and yards allowed. They rank second in takeaways with 36. They are second against the pass but only sixth in rushing yards allowed. However, they have allowed the least amount of scores on the ground.
Keys to the Game
The Titans will need to protect the ball very well and not give the Patriots free possessions. The Patriots’s defense thrives off of forcing turnovers. They are +21 in turnover margin this season.
Ryan Tannehill has done an excellent job of being smart with the ball this season. Not only does he have a very impressive completion percentage, but he only has six interceptions on the year. He needs to make smart decisions under pressure and play a clean game.
Get Derrick Henry Going
As has been the key all season, Derrick Henry will need to have a big game. He leads the NFL in rushing yards this season and has been the biggest factor in the Titans playoff run.
The Titans are 7-0 in games where Henry runs for over 90 yards. They are 2-6 in games where he fails to reach 90. The Patriots defense is very strong but can be susceptible to allowing chunks of yards on the ground. Henry ran for 211 against Houston in the season finale to secure the playoffs. A big performance will make a big difference in the wild card game.
Defense Needs to Contain Brady
The Tennessee Titans’ defense will need to keep Brady in check to give their offense a fighting chance. The Titans rank 21st in yards allowed and rank 24th in passing yards allowed and 21st in rushing yards allowed.
They rank 12th in points allowed this season. This contrasts the large number of yards allowed because of timely turnovers. The Titans thrive on their red zone defense and forcing big turnovers. They’ll need to have a couple of big plays from the defense to give themselves a chance at beating the Patriots.
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