Enjoy Saturday night’s AFC Divisional Round game between the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots in Foxboro, NFL fans, as it’s your last Saturday football action of the season. For the first half of the game, the Titans appeared to be an easy elimination, but they put things together in a big way in the second half.
It has been a challenging week off the field for the Patriots following reports of turmoil involving Brady, coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft.
“It’s a playoff game, so it’s not like it’s the preseason where I can go out there, ‘Oh, it’s Brady, ‘ and I’m chillin, ‘” Tennessee All-Pro safety Kevin Byard said.
The numbers say Tom Brady’s chemistry with Brandin Cooks is getting worse, not better, and it all started last month in South Florida, where the Miami Dolphins devised (and executed) the blueprint on how to disrupt the Brady-Cooks connection. Nothing really should get in the way of that. Since 2002, as Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel writes, the Patriots are 9-0 in home Saturday night playoff games. He turned the ball over a lot more than one would expect. “That’s fine”, he said. “We’re playing against a good team, divisional round, and I’m glad we earned the chance to be here to do it”. We put the hard work in, we put the dedication in and we know what it takes to get to that level.
If Brady was not 40, his 81.6 passer rating over the final five games of the season, which he played with a nagging Achilles injury, would be dismissed as part of a season’s typical ebb. On the other side, the Titans will again load up on Derrick Henry, who just had the best game of his career with 23 carries for 156 yards and a touchdown.
“We’ve dealt with some non-Tennessee subjects here over the last few days”, Belichick said to close out his opening statement. “I think that’s kind of been the mindset through this entire season. You never want to come up short against a team like that because they’re so good”. The 2015 Heisman Trophy victor is no stranger to being the lead dog, and he showed that he’s capable of handling a heavy workload in the wild card win over Kansas City. Henry is a bruiser who can run over guys. Second year running back Derrick Henry is coming off the best game (156 yards) in his short National Football League career in the win at Kansas City.
The last time the Titans were double-digit underdogs against anyone was Week 15 of the 2015 season.
With players like linebackers Brian Orakpo and Wesley Woodyard, along with defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, Tom Brady will need to have his offensive line in full protection force.
As long as the opponent isn’t the New York Giants, the Patriots have fared quite well in the Brady/Belichick era going up against an opponent as inferior – at least on paper – as these Tennessee Titans in the playoffs. Roethlisberger has only thrown seven interceptions in the 10 games he’s played since, and the Steelers won nine of those games.
The Patriots have been superb at home in the postseason with six straight wins in Foxborough.
Past controversies, from 2007’s Spygate to 2015’s Deflategate have invariably brought out the best in Brady and the Patriots, who are rarely more risky when they perceive an injustice. They’re good, as I said, in all three phases of the game.
LeBeau has an NFL-record 45 consecutive seasons as a coach, with Belichick at 43.
For the third time in four years, reigning NFL Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots are the top seed in the AFC and have homefield throughout the playoffs.
The respect between the two is mutual.
“Henry, you’ve got to be able to defend everywhere”, McCourty said.