The New England Patriots have accomplished a lot in the last 20 years, but they’ve never won the Super Bowl as a wildcard. The last time the Patriots entered the playoffs as a wildcard was back in 2009. They got to host the Baltimore Ravens and didn’t show up in a 33-14 loss. Ray Rice opened the game with an 80+ yard touchdown run and that set the tone for the rest of the game. The Patriots can’t allow Derrick Henry to run all over them on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, or they could be in for another long night in the Wild Card Round.
There are six teams who’ve won the Super Bowl as a wildcard. That includes the New York Giants in 2007 to disrupt a perfect season for the Patriots. The most recent team to win the Super Bowl as a wildcard was the Green Bay Packers in 2010. That team didn’t really feel like a wildcard at the time, but with the Patriots losing to the Miami Dolphins and struggling down the stretch, they haven’t played like a team who deserves a bye week.
The Patriots have long had issues against the Dolphins, and this is going back to when New England has looked much better overall. Remember that they lost to the Dolphins last season as well, albeit, the situation wasn’t as important and the Patriots still went on to win the Super Bowl. It wasn’t a must-win situation for the Patriots last week, but they would have been able to get this week off and not have to play the Tennessee Titans.
Like I said, the Patriots have accomplished a lot with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady at the helm. Pretty much there is for a team to do, though they have never won as a wildcard team. Perhaps this is the season that the Patriots quiet the doubters once again with a championship despite going into the playoffs as a wildcard. The Patriots are going to have to play better football if that’s going to be the case, because they didn’t pass the eye test in the regular season.
Brady has looked like an ordinary quarterback without a serviceable offensive line or wide receiving core to help him out. His ability has regressed this season. He’s missed throws that we expect him to complete. Although, I will say that a better offensive line and reliable receivers would cover up a lot of his mistakes this season. There wouldn’t be as many people on his back if he had the Titans’ offensive weapons surrounding him.
Ryan Tannehill has thoroughly enjoyed playing in Nashville. In his first season with a competent team supporting him, Tannehill has flourished with the Titans. The move from Marcus Mariota to Tannehill was the turning point of the season in the NFL. Tannehill has never played in a playoff game, so this will be his first rodeo and it’s against Belichick and the Patriots in Foxborough. The Patriots look wounded, but they’re not dead yet.
The Titans cannot afford to give the Patriots any momentum on Saturday night. Brady suddenly finding a groove could quickly develop into a rout, though we haven’t seen much of a groove from him this season. We’ll see if the changing of the month to January will have an impact on the Patriots. Note that they will be going into the playoffs with their longest odds to win the Super Bowl in the Belichick-Brady era. Head below for our free Titans vs. Patriots pick in the AFC Wild Card Round.
Prop Bets for the NFL’s Wild Card Weekend
Tennessee Titans vs. New England Patriots Betting Odds:
Titans vs. Patriots Prediction:
Ryan Tannehill is not only playing for his team in this one. He is searching for a large contract from the Titans in the offseason. A win over the Patriots in Foxborough would go a long way in clinching a new contract. The pressure is on the former wide receiver at Texas A&M to come up big for Tennessee. He’s done his job up to this point, as Tannehill has passed for 22 touchdowns and 6 interceptions on 70.3% completions.
And with that, Tannehill finished atop the NFL with a 117.5 QBR in 2019. He helped the Titans finish 12th in the NFL with 362.8 yards per game. Tannehill has had some help, and it’s been predicted around the play of Derrick Henry. When he gets a crease, Henry looks like a tank rolling down the field. He rushed for 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns for 5.1 yards per carry.
The key for the Patriots is going to be slowing down Henry first and foremost. If this turns into a game where Tannehill has to win it on his arm, the Patriots are going to be content with the Titans abandoning the run. The weather is not supposed to be pleasant on Saturday. There could be rain coming down periodically throughout the game. It’s not going to be ideal passing conditions for Tannehill. When it comes to Brady, we’ve seen him look great in bad weather games. As long as it’s not incredibly windy, some rain probably won’t bother him too much.
Adoree Jackson is expected to be back for the Titans this week, but he hasn’t played since Week 13 against the Colts. The Titans need help defensively, so his return will be welcome, though he could be rusty in Foxborough. The Titans were rather pedestrian against the pass overall this season, having allowed 255 passing yards for 24th in the NFL. If there’s one kind of defense that is going to give the Patriots all kinds of problems in the playoffs, it’s going to be a team who can stop the pass. The Titans are not that. They looked good in Houston, but that was against the second-team offense of the Texans.
Some might argue that this Patriots’ offense is like a second-team unit. However, I’d be surprised if Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels don’t come up with something to counter what is a leaky Titans’ secondary. Somebody not named Julian Edelman is likely going to come up big for the Patriots on offence. It could be N’Keal Harry, Rex Burkhead, or Mohamad Sanu, but I think there’s going to be an x-factor for the Patriots on Saturday night. If some of the load can be taken off Edelman, then the Pats will find progress offensively. We haven’t seen it occur much this season, but I have faith in Belichick drawing something up to counter a beatable Tennessee secondary.
Despite some issues here and there, the Patriots were 1st defensively with 275.9 yards allowed per game. They’ve yielded just 180.4 yards per game across the air. Tannehill obviously has been slinging the ball around effectively, and it’s going to be interesting against Stephon Gilmore and company. Gilmore will be blanketing A.J. Brown, and if Brown can’t get going, that’s a major deep threat erased from Tannehill’s arsenal. Corey Davis will have to step up if that’s the case, and I think Belichick will be prepared for two inexperienced wide receivers in the biggest game of their lives.
The Patriots were asleep last night and didn’t take the Dolphins seriously, they’ve done it in the past and did it again last week. Belichick is the master of being able to bounce back from bad games, though. He’s 21-7 ATS in a loss at home, and 6-0 ATS the following week after a loss as a double-digit favorite. The Patriots were 17-point favorites against the Dolphins, so it certainly qualifies in this spot. It’s not like the Pats have to deal with the Chiefs or Ravens in this game, either.
Instead, they take on a Titans team led by Tannehill who has never been to the playoffs before. His main targets in the passing game, A.J. Brown and Corey Davis, are only 22 years old and 24. Delanie Walker would have helped greatly here, but he’s on the IR and is done for the year. On the other side we have the most battled tested playoff team in the NFL at home in Foxborough.
I’ve been a big fan of what the Titans have done this season, and I’ve been on them often, including in Week 1 against the Browns in Cleveland when everyone was lining up to slam the home team. I also told you to be cautious about Baker Mayfield way back then. But, it’s hard for me to ignore the Patriots at less than a touchdown with their backs up against the wall at home. Everyone seems to remember their struggles this season, but no one likes to mention that if Edelman doesn’t fumble against the Ravens, the Patriots likely avoid a 14-point swing in Baltimore in Week 9. Also keep in mind the Patriots may have very well beaten the Chiefs in Week 14 if the refs don’t botch a scoring play.
No one believes in them now because of what transpired last week, but again, the Dolphins are always a thorn in their side. It hasn’t mattered how good or bad the Patriots are, Miami always comes to play against their divisional rival. There is some recency bias coming into play from what we saw last week as well. The playoffs are a different animal than the regular season, though. Tannehill has never won a game against the Patriots in Foxborough before, and I don’t see it coming on Saturday night. The Titans’ offensive line has surrendered 56 sacks for the third-most in the NFL. Expect the Patriots to exploit that hole and get after Tannehill. A competitive game early likely develops into a 7-10 point win for the Patriots.