Divisional Round Tale Of The Tape: Tennessee Titans At New England Patriots
- QuarterbackAfter a disappointing regular season, Marcus Mariota hopes to turn things around in the postseason and he got off to an excellent start in the win over Kansas City by leading a comeback victory. Mariota is one of the best running quarterback in the league, and that is likely to cause huge problems for New England’s defense. Mariota threw 15 interceptions during the season, and he must avoid turnovers.Tom Brady and the Patriots have a huge task in front of them as the postseason gets underway. They are hoping to win back-to-back titles and their third in four years. Brady struggled a bit down the stretch as he threw six interceptions in the last six games of the season after throwing two in the first 10. Brady’s vast body of successful work gives New England a major edge in this category.
- OffenseOne of the big reasons the Titans were able to mount their comeback victory over the Chiefs was the sensational running of Derrick Henry, who ripped the Kansas City defense for 156 yards. Look for head coach Mike Mularkey to unleash Henry again in this game. Tight end Delanie Walker has excellent hands and can key third-down catches, while Eric Decker had success against the Pats while with the Jets.The Patriots have the kind of running game that can take the heat off Brady at key moments. Dion Lewis ran for 896 yards and seven touchdowns, and he is also a dangerous receiver. Mike Gillislee can run with power and convert third-down plays. Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in the league and creates huge matchup problems. Danny Amendola will go over the middle and make tough catches.
- DefenseThe Titans have plenty of speed on defense and that will help prevent the big passing plays. However, there are issues with size and strength on defense and the Patriots will likely have an edge on short-yardage plays. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard is one of the best tacklers on the team, while free safety Kevin Byard is a threat to read Brady and come up with an interception.The Patriots are vulnerable on defense, as they ranked 28th in yards allowed. While Matt Patricia’s defense struggled badly in the first part of the season, this unit showed significant improvement when it came to keeping opponents from scoring. Cornerback Malcolm Butler is one of the top cover men in the league and he had 14 passes defensed. Trey Flowers had a team-high 6.5 sacks.
- Special TeamsThe Titans generally do a good job with their special teams, but that may not be enough against the Pats. Rookie Adoree Jackson has excellent speed and is a threat in the return game, while Ryan Succop is very dependable on any FG attempt under 40 yards.The Patriots continue to do an excellent job covering kickoffs and punts, and they need to do an excellent job of containing Jackson. Stephen Gostkowski made 37-of-40 FG attempts and is probably the best clutch kicker in the postseason. Lewis is a dangerous kickoff returner.
The Patriots are heavy favorites at home and they have big edges at quarterback, offense and special teams. Unless Brady throws three interceptions, the Pats should advance to the AFC title game.