Tennessee Titans (10-7 SU, 9-7-1 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (13-3 SU, 11-5 ATS)
NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend
Date/Time: Saturday January 13th, 8:15 PM EST
Where: Gillette Stadium
by Mike M, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: TEN +13 / NE -13
Over/Under Total: 47
Gillette Stadium will be the scene on Saturday night when the Patriots and Titans meet in Foxboro for a primetime AFC Divisional Playoff matchup. New England holds a 7-1 advantage over the Titans/Oilers franchise since they moved to Tennessee and have won the last four matchups between the teams by an average of 28 points per game.
The point spread for the game opened with the Patriots as a 13.5 favorite, which marks the 22nd time in NFL playoff history that a team has been favored by 13 or more points. New England has been involved in seven of those twenty-two matchups, having been favored by that amount or more five times and having been underdogs twice by 14 in their Super Bowl matchups against the Packers in 1996 and the Rams in 2001. Their win against St. Louis was one of two times that a 13+ point playoff underdog has gone on to upset a heavy favorite, with the other back in Super Bowl III when Joe Namath and the Jets beat Baltimore in Super Bowl III. Overall, dogs have posted a 8-12-1 record when getting thirteen or more points in the playoffs, including a 3-7 mark in divisional round matchups.
They may not have been getting two touchdowns, but the Titans were still given little chance of getting past the Chiefs in the Wild Card round last weekend and at gametime found themselves as a nine point underdog. Thankfully for them Andy Reid and his propensity for disappearing intelligence in the postseason was on the opposing sideline and Tennessee was eventually able to escape Arrowhead with a 23-21 upset win to advance to the play the Patriots this weekend. One reason nearly all prognosticators werent backing the Titans was how poorly they played at seasons end, having lost three of the their last four games with their only win coming against Jacksonville in the final weekend when the Jaguars were resting nearly all of their starters after already having clinched the 3rd seed. Another could have been the fact that Jacksonville was the only playoff team that the Titans were able to beat during the regular season, with nearly half of their regular season victories coming against the three worst teams in the AFC (Browns, Colts & Texans), who ended their years with a combined record of 8-40.
The Titans were able to find success this season despite the regression of 3rd year quarterback Marcus Mariota, who saw nearly all of his statistics drop after struggling to keep pace with the stellar and especially accurate beginning to his NFL career. Tennessee finished 26th in the league in interceptions with 17 on the season with Mariota throwing nearly all of them and ending the year with more turnovers than touchdowns through the air and a disappointing 13/15 TD-INT ratio. The former Oregon signal caller was notably porous on the road and threw just five touchdowns with eleven interceptions in games away from home, which was particularly noticeable for Marcus after he had put up a TD/INT stat line of 23-6 in his first two seasons when traveling. His passing success has had a clear effect on his teams chances this season as they have put up an 8-2 record in games when Mariota throws for a score, though oddly how he does on the ground has had an opposite effect throughout of late with the Titans just 2-5 in their last seven games when Marcus runs for a touchdowns.
One issue for Mariotas statistical decline has been the lack of connection with his wide receivers, most notably when it comes to getting into the endzone. Tight end Delante Walker led the team in both receptions and yards while finishing second in touchdowns, but unfortunately he had just three scores on the season and team leader Rishard Matthews ended the year with only four. The Titans had high hopes going into the year for their receiving corps with free agent Erik Decker and top ten pick in the draft Corey Davis added to the mix, but neither was able to contribute as hoped as Decker finished the year with only one touchdown while Davis battled injuries for most of his rookie campaign and is still looking for his first career NFL touchdown.
Unfortunately for Tennessee their passing game was not the only facet of the offense to hit a bump in the road toward the end of their season, with Demarco Murray tearing his MCL in week 16 against San Francisco and Derrick Henry struggling through the final month with 51 carries for 115 yards over the last four games of the regular season. Thankfully for Titans fans Henry was able to do a 180-degree turn of success against the Chiefs in the playoffs after rushing for 156 yards and a touchdown to help his team make their monumental comeback in Kansas City. With that touchdown, Tennessee is now 9-1 over the past two seasons when their second year running back gets in the endzone, and with Murray projected to be limited at best on Saturday, Henry should have ample opportunity to try and continue that streak as the expected focal point of the Titans offense.
The Patriots enter Saturdays game with plenty of rest after earning a bye through the first round, and unlike the Titans wounded backfield issues, New England finds themselves in an opposite position as injured backs Rex Burkhead and James White are now healthy which gives the team ample options with Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee already available. Lewis has had a similar effect on his team as Henry when it comes to the running back getting into the endzone, with the Patriots 10-1 over his career in games that he has been able to score a touchdown whether through the air or on the ground. New England will likely continue to go with their usual strategy of going with the back who is the best fit to exploit the opposing defense, which will be especially important against a Titans defense that ranks 4th in the NFL against the run and 13th in total yards per game. There is ample talent throughout the Tennessee defensive roster, including sack leaders Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan and Jurrell Casey, 1st Team NFL safety Kevin Byard (league leader in interceptions with 8), cornerback Adoree Jackson (10th in league with 17 pass breakups) and linebacker Wesley Woodard, who leads the team in tackles (124) and tackles for loss (10) while also contributing five sacks, five pass deflections and one fumble recovery returned for a touchdown.
While multiple statistical correlations to a teams success have been cited above, there is none even close to the touchdown-to-win ratio of Patriots tight end and 1st Team All-Pro Rob Gronkowski. Since the former Arizona Wildcat began his NFL career in 2010, New England is a whopping 31-2 at home in games that Gronk scores a touchdown and have not lost in said scenario since back in week two of the 2012 season. Quarterback Tom Brady still has many other options at his disposal, including 1000 yard receiver Brandin Cooks along with Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan, but there is no denying the mass effect that Gronkowski has when stepping foot on the playing field and it would be a great surprise if the Titans dont put some of their primary focus in attempting to slow him down. Unfortunately for the Tennessee there is no only so much you can to stop one person on the Patriots without opening the door for Tom Brady to find a way to exploit them in something way, especially through the air where Tennessee has been most susceptible as their pass defense ranked just 26th in the NFL.
The Patriots were able to get an added boost of motivation this past week when a formerly respected and now repeatedly disgraced cable sports outlet decided to run yet another hatchet piece on the team as they strive to focus nearly all of the current professional sports coverage on either fluffing Lebron or coming up with as much ridiculous and more importantly factually unproven/unsubstantiated content to attempt to disparage New Englands dynastic football franchise. Nothing was more ironically hilarious than hearing the article author talk about how the network is always cautious with what we print and that you want to verify things as much as possible and not just throw things out there, which is literally the exact opposite of how they handled their previous coverage regarding the Patriots multiple times over.
New England begins their playoff run having gone 8-1 over their last nine postseason games with their only such losses since 2012 having come at Denver in AFC Championship games. The point spread of 13 is one of the largest in NFL playoff history, but as written about above, the Patriots have been in said situation ample times in the past and have had little issue getting through those games and now find themselves set to play a clearly overmatched Titans team that some had labeled as the worst of the twelve teams to make the postseason. In their first of three games on their way to winning their third Super Bowl title in four seasons, you can count on the Patriots to get an easy win and cover against Tennessee on Saturday night in Foxboro.
Mike Ms Pick to Cover the Point Spread: New England -13. – Bet this game for FREE by taking advantage of a 50% bonus up to $250 at one of the web’s oldest and most trusted betting sites: BOVADA