Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots
When: 8:15 PM ET, Saturday, January 4, 2020
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Staff Reporting and Gracenote
FOXBORO – The New England Patriots were all but penciled in for a first-round bye, needing only to beat lowly Miami at home in their regular-season finale to clinch the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Instead, after a stunning 27-24 loss to the Dolphins, New England will play in the wild-card round for the first time since 2009 when it hosts the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night.
Bidding to advance to the Super Bowl for a fourth consecutive season, the Patriots failed to earn a bye for only the fourth time in 17 trips to the postseason dating to 2001 — and neither of the other three resulted in a Super Bowl appearance.
“Here in New England we’ve been a little bit spoiled with byes yearly,” special teams standout Matthew Slater said after the Patriots lost for the fourth time in the last eight games. “We’re blessed to be in the playoffs. We need to make this opportunity count.”
The Titans nailed down the sixth seed with a 35-14 win at Houston last week to earn their first playoff trip under Mike Vrabel, who won three Super Bowl rings in eight seasons with New England under coach Bill Belichick.
“This is about the Titans and our preparation to go up there and face a team that’s won three Super Bowls in the last five years,” Vrabel said. “They’re 8-0 at home (in the playoffs) in that span. They’ve got the No. 1 defense. They’ve got the best coach. They’ve got the best quarterback. So it’s quite a challenge.”
In previewing the AFC Wild Card game, many of the online betting sites (SBD suggests you check for odds) have the Patriots giving five points as favorites against the Titans, after an unexpected win by Miami at Foxboro last week. That game dropped New England from their usual bye week placement into the unusual slot to play this first weekend of NFL Playoffs.
TIME: 8:15 p.m. ET. TV: CBS. LINE: Patriots -5. O/U: 44
ABOUT THE TITANS (9-7): Ryan Tannehill, who saw plenty of New England during his tenure with Miami, went 7-3 after taking over as the starting quarterback and wound up leading the league with a passer rating of 117.5. “It’ll be fun. It’s a place I know well and a team I know well, so we’re looking forward to the opportunity,” said Tannehill, who threw for 22 touchdowns versus six interceptions and has a 1,000-yard receiver in rookie A.J. Brown (eight TDs). Tennessee will lean heavily on AFC Offensive Player of the Week Derrick Henry, who won the league rushing title with 1,540 yards after piling up 211 yards and scoring three of his 18 touchdowns in last Sunday’s win. The Titans rank 24th against the pass at 255.0 yards per game.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (12-4): Tom Brady has six Super Bowl rings and was named the game MVP four times, but he has struggled with a revolving door at wide receiver and an ineffective running game as New England scored more than 24 points only once following an 8-0 start. Julian Edelman, last season’s Super Bowl MVP, had 100 receptions for a career-best 1,117 yards but was limited to a combined 10 catches for 107 yards over the past three games while dealing with multiple injuries. Sony Michel averaged 86.3 yards rushing over the past three but has scored only once in the last nine games. New England’s defense surrendered a league-low 14.1 points but allowed at least 23 points in half their final eight contests and lost each one.
- Brady has a record 16 300-yard games in the playoffs, including 12 straight with at least 250 yards passing.
- Tannehill threw for three TDs and posted a 155.2 passer rating versus New England in December 2018.
- New England won seven in a row in the series before a 34-10 loss at Tennessee in November 2018.
PREDICTION: Patriots 26, Titans 20