Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
FOXBOROUGH – Amid the background of a reported rift between the owner, coach and star quarterback, the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots host the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night. The Patriots have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in two of the past three seasons and look to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since they accomplished it in 2003-04.
New England, the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, dealt with a rare off-the-field distraction when ESPN detailed a power struggle between coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft — a report the team disputed. “The reputation that Coach tries to get us to have is just ignore the noise — ignore the noise from the outside and I feel like that’s what myself and a lot of other players have been doing,” Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski said. While Brady has 25 playoff wins under his belt, the upstart Titans will arrive in Foxborough fresh off their first postseason win since 2003 — stunning the Kansas City Chiefs 22-21 after trailing by 18 points at halftime. Tennessee, which lost three straight before beating Jacksonville in Week 17 to clinch a playoff slot, has not won at New England since 2003, when the franchise was still located in Houston.
TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Patriots -13.5. O/U: 47
ABOUT THE TITANS (10-7): Quarterback Marcus Mariota threw for more interceptions (15) than scoring passes (13) this season, but he guided Tennessee to three long touchdown drives in the second half, including a TD pass to himself at Kansas City. Mariota also rushed eight times for 46 yards but the Titans’ best hopes are to feed backup running back Derrick Henry, who punished the Chiefs for 156 yards and a score on 23 carries. Tight end Delanie Walker had a team-high 74 catches while Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker added 53 and 54, respectively. Tennessee is 25th against the pass (239.3 yards) but tied for fifth in the league with 43 sacks.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (13-3): Brady put up his usual flashy numbers, leading the league with 4,577 yards and tossing 32 touchdowns versus eight interceptions, but he had just six scoring passes and five picks over the past five games. Dion Lewis has rushed for at least 92 yards in four of his past six games and scored five times in the past three, and should get some help with the expected returns of Rex Burkhead and James White from injury. Gronkowski and speedster Brandin Cooks each went over 1,000 yards and combined for 15 touchdowns for New England’s top-ranking offense (394.2 yards). The Patriots limited 10 of their last 12 opponents to 17 points or fewer.
1. Brady has 1,528 yards with 13 TDs and zero interceptions in six meetings versus Tennessee.
2. Mariota has 40 touchdowns and no interceptions in the red zone in his first three seasons.
3. Gronkowski has six touchdown receptions in his last five postseason games.