Tom Brady via Jeffrey Beall [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)] for AFC Wild Card

AFC Wild Card: Playoffs Preview, TEN at NE

Closing off the AFC Wild Card games is the Tennessee Titans and the New England Patriots. This game isn’t going to be a cakewalk like you might suspect, the Titans won’t allow it.

AFC Wild Card

Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots

Gillette Stadium

Foxboro, MA

Betting

Get those dogs barking… I’m on the underdog in Foxboro! I like the Titans (+190) to walk into Gillette Stadium and take care of business. Yes, Playoff Tom Brady will likely be better than regular season Brady, but that won’t matter. This Titans team is more well-rounded and has been playing better as of late. The Patriots on the other hand, have the #1 defense but are coming off of the worst loss of the season last week. If you scared to take the Titans ML, I get it. So, take the Titans +5 (-110) and thank me later.

Injuries

For the Patriots, the health of Julian Edelman, Jamie Collins, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty are the biggest ones to track. Edelman is the Pats top option on offense, while the others are key components to their top-ranked defense. Since they’ve all been practicing, I suspect they’ll be ready to go come Saturday Night.

For the Titans, the only real news here is that Adam Humphries is OUT. Humphries has been a consistent target for Ryan Tannehill all season, so he’ll be missed greatly. Thankfully, the emergence of A.J. Brown has led to defenses focusing on him. This has allowed guys like Jonnu Smith, Corey Davis, and Tajae Sharp to find openings.

Patriots Offense vs. Titans Defense

The Patriots lack big-play explosiveness, but, they make up up for it with consistent play. By this I mean that the Pats are good for 350+ yards of offense each and every game. Brady isn’t going to drop dimes 40+ yards in the air to guys like Phillip Dorsett and N’Keal Harry. What he will do however, is manipulate the defensive scheme to find openings for Edelman and Harry in the intermediate passing game. Mo Sanu appears to have been a bust of a trade acquisition and the retirement of Gronk has basically eliminated any relevance from the TE position.

So what do the Pats do? Well, the aforementioned Edelman and Harry targets are going to be down the field. That leaves James White and Rex Burkhead to catch passes out of the backfield. This is how they’ll have their best chance of beating the Titans. The Titans defense stacks up as nearly the exact same as the Patriots, but obviously from the opposite side of the ball. They key will be if the Patriots can have Sony Michel do more than just carry the ball in order to fool the defense.

Titans Offense vs. Patriots Defense

Feed Derrick Henry. That should be the gameplan for the Titans entering the AFC Wild Card matchup.

Henry won the rushing title and it surely was not a fluke. This man may be the most punishing RB in the NFL today. He faces a tough matchup against this Patriots #1 ranked defense but, the Titans simply have to keep giving him the ball. Meanwhile, Titans QB Ryan Tannehill will be making his first ever postseason start. Not an ideal opponent to go up against for your first game in the postseason. As of late, A.J. Brown has emerged as possibly a true #1 WR in the NFL, which helps Tannehill. The problem they face tonight? Stephon Gilmore. Throughout the year, Gilmore has been getting talks among the media about being the Defensive Player of the Year.

With Gilmore likely shadowing Brown, the secondary and tertiary targets in this Titans offense are going to have to step up. They shouldn’t be counted on for much, but Corey Davis, Tajae Sharpe, and Jonnu Smith can all break off big plays.

Predictions

Titans: 24

Patriots: 21

Guaranteed Touchdown Scorer: Derrick Henry

Dart Throw Touchdown Scorer: James White

Best Fantasy QB: Ryan Tannehill, despite what Patriots fans will say, father time has caught up to Tom Brady.

Better Fantasy RB: Derrick Henry, the big-bodied RB should be able to bully the Patriots defense around.

Better Fantasy WR: AJ Brown, I’m tempted to put Edelman in this spot but it makes more sense that Tannehill to Brown is the better connection.

Best Fantasy TE: Jonnu Smith, the Patriots TEs are not making any impact.

Better Fantasy D/ST: Titans, a clean sweep…

Conclusion

Who do you think wins today in this AFC Wild Card game? Depending on the winner of the other AFC Wild Card game, who plays the Ravens and Chiefs next week? Let me know in the comments below! Also, check out the shop and other content by clicking here.

-Mitchell Seefeldt

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