For three and a half quarters, ESPN’s FPI gave the Tennessee Titans less than a 20 percent chance of beating the Kansas City Chiefs. At their lowest point, they were only being given a 2.2 percent shot of saving their season.
The greatest underdog story of the NFL postseason continues on, though, as the Titans have stayed alive. Their next task is as tough as it gets against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
Titans Playoff History
The Titans hadn’t won a playoff game since 2004. They’ve broken that hex, but they don’t have a great history to fall back on in the Divisional Round.
Tennessee is just 1-3 this century in the second round of the postseason, the one win coming in the 2003 playoffs against Pittsburgh. The team hasn’t won a Divisional Round game on the road since the one following the Music City Miracle in 2000, a 19-16 win against Peyton Manning and the Colts.
The Titans have a 4-8 all-time mark in the Divisional Round, though two of those four wins came back in the Bum Phillips/Earl Campbell days in the late-1970s.
Patriots Playoff History
You surely don’t need an introduction to everything New England has accomplished in the playoffs in recent history.
This is the 14th time since the dawn of the Tom Brady era that the Pats are playing in the Divisional Round, and the franchise has gone 11-2 in the previous 13 games.
Beating the Brady Bunch in Foxboro in the postseason is virtually impossible, too. The Pats have won their last six playoff games at home and are 17-3 in the postseason under Brady’s command, starting with the “Tuck Rule” game against Oakland in 2002.
Why Tennessee Will Beat the Patriots
It’s hard to find a lot of reasons to believe the Titans will win this game, but if they’re going to do so they’re going to do it because the dysfunction that is being reported in New England is real. Is this Brady’s last playoff push? Is Bill Belichick really ready to leave town? Are Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels ready to take head coaching gigs elsewhere? All of that pressure could manifest into a bad showing in the postseason if this really is the end.
If you’re looking for an on-field reason to back Tennessee, it’s a discussion that starts and ends with Derrick Henry and the ground game. Perhaps DeMarco Murray is healthy and ready to go in Foxboro, but even if he isn’t, Henry was a monster against the Chiefs. The former Heisman Trophy winner has been relatively quiet in his NFL career, but he was in full-throttle Beast Mode against Kansas City, running for 156 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
Why New England Will Beat the Titans
Number of Career Postseason Starts
Tom Brady: 34
Marcus Mariota: 1
Brady has thrown for 9,094 yards and 63 touchdowns in his postseason career, including seven games in his last eight in which he has tossed at least two scoring passes.
Furthermore, Brady has more passing touchdowns in 34 career postseason games (63) than Mariota has in his 43 career games in totality (60).
Needless to say, the quarterback battle is a huge mismatch.
From a matchup standpoint, it’s going to be really hard for the Titans to slow down Rob Gronkowski. Tennessee didn’t really have much in the way of success slowing down the Chiefs until Travis Kelce left the game injured. There’s always a better-than-usual chance that Gronk gets hurt in this one, but for as long as he’s on the field, the Titans simply don’t have anyone else who can body with him.
Parlay Gronk with the newly-reborn New England running game, and you’ve got an offense that could look unstoppable against a defense that is surely beatable.
Titans vs. Patriots Prediction
The Titans only played in a few games this entire season against playoff-caliber teams. Heading into the postseason, the only team they had beaten that made the playoffs was Jacksonville, and the Jaguars are still largely considered a bit of a farce.
You’re going to hear a lot about how the so-called sharp bettors are taking the two touchdowns with the Titans, but at some point you just have to look back at history and realize that you can’t bet against it. Are these Patriots as good as the ones who won the Super Bowl last season? We don’t think so. But we’re not betting against Brady at home this time of year either.
This is a game that feels like it’s going to start 21-0 in the first quarter and never get any prettier for Tennessee.
Titans vs. Patriots Pick: New England 38, Tennessee 14
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