The wait for the NFL playoffs is over at long last. The Wild Card round kicks off this Saturday with two games, and prime time brings us the second AFC matchup of the day when the Tennessee Titans square off against the New England Patriots. The Titans are rolling, having won five of their last seven games, while the Patriots are reeling, losing four of their last five, including a Week 17 loss to the hapless Dolphins.
Mike Vrabel’s Tennessee squad comes in hot at the right time, led by starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry. The Titans blew out a Texans squad last week that was resting its primary starters, 35-14.
The Patriots were beaten for the first time in 16 tries at Foxborough by the Dolphins, who only won five games this season. The Patriots are favored by 4.5 points, with an over/under of 44 headed into the contest. Here’s a betting preview of Saturday’s contest.
Since becoming the starter, Tannehill has shown a little magic in Tennessee, which is something that many Dolphins fans knew he was capable of. Tannehill was never the issue in Miami. A few times, his injuries got in the way, but often his on-field play was pretty consistent.
Tannehill was 7-3 in his starts this season, completing over 70 percent of his passes for 22 touchdowns to only six picks. He looks to keep that going against the best defense in football this season.
Henry led the NFL in rushing yards this season with 1,540. He also has 18 touchdowns to go along with all of those rushing yards. The Titans will need equal parts from their rushing and passing games to break down the Patriots’ ferocious defense. They must find a way to slow down Jamie Collins Sr., Dont’a Hightower, and Kyle Van Noy to give Tannehill pocket time.
The Last Hurrah?
Patriots fans may be witnessing the last home game of Tom Brady’s career this weekend, but Brady likely won’t give any indicators before the game. He will come in hyper-focused on the matchup as always. Brady has thrown for over 4,000 yards yet again this season, adding 24 touchdowns to only eight picks.
Not bad for a guy in his 40s. Brady and the offense haven’t been as explosive as in years past, but they haven’t needed to be with their defense dominating.
The Patriots defense ranks at the top of the league overall. Collins came back to New England this season after a stint in Cleveland and has emerged as one of the league’s top linebackers.
Collins has three picks, three forced fumbles, and seven sacks on the season. He also leads the team in tackles. Hightower and Van Noy have combined for another 12 sacks on the season.
A Real Wild Card
This game could shock those who haven’t seen the Titans play in the latter half of the season. For those that have kept an eye on both teams, a Patriots win or loss won’t come as a shock. New England has been bipolar in the second half.
Both of these teams are 8-7-1 against the spread on the season. Oddly, the Patriots are only 3-4-1 against the spread at Foxborough. The Titans are 5-3 against the spread on the road. This should make for an interesting bettor’s matchup.