The Run Begins

AFC Divisional Playoffs

(5) Tennessee Titans at (1) New England Patriots

Titans: When the playoffs start, it’s a completely new slate. Everybody enters with a record of 0-0 and you don’t look back at what happened in the regular season anymore. Let’s be perfectly honest here, the Tennessee Titans had absolutely no business winning that football game in Kansas City in the Wild Card round and in the beginning, it looked as if the Chiefs were simply going to roll all over them. Never forget that football is a game of two halves and adjustments can simply be made and that’s exactly what they did, especially after Travis Kelce went down after taking a brutal hit. After that, Tennessee had to change up their entire defensive game plan which consisted of shutting down Kareem Hunt, double-teaming Tyreek Hill and they forced Alex Smith to beat them with the remaining weapons for the Chiefs. We have to show Derrick Henry some love as well because he simply controlled the line of scrimmage and took over the game! Marcus Mariota also did a bit of everything and the playcalling which has been questionable as of late was the best I’ve seen it because they allowed Mariota to make plays and we saw what he’s capable of doing. If they want to advance, they will need to bring down the almighty Patriots on Saturday night.

Patriots: It’s a new year, but the same result for them. For the thirteenth time in the Bill Belichick era, the New England Patriots have clinched a first-round bye and for the fifth time in the last nine seasons, they will enter the playoffs as the AFC’s number one seed and the road to Minneapolis in the conference will once again travel through Foxboro, Massachusetts. It’s almost as if we can just automatically pencil them into winning the division, make the playoffs and be a title contender. After all the off-season acquisitions they made, they were being compared to the 2007 team that became the first team in NFL history to finish a regular season with a perfect 16-0 mark. It was a rocky start to the year when they were shocked by the Chiefs on opening night and the defense was being considered as the worst in the league. We should all know by now that you never count the Patriots out and they fixed their issues by simplifying things defensively and all being on the same page with one another. We also kept saying that they didn’t have a pass rusher and they were able to fill that void by signing James Harrison from the rival Steelers. You never doubt this team. They’ll begin their chance to repeat with the Titans coming to town on Saturday night.

Titans Player To Watch: Kevin Byard– You talk about having to face the best at their position. Last week, he was defending Travis Kelce and this weekend, he will be seeing a lot of Rob Gronkowski. Kevin Byard is actually one of the few safeties that can do the impossible it seems and cover tight ends. He’ll see Gronkowski quite often and maybe even Chris Hogan.

Patriots Player To Watch: Dion Lewis– Mike Gillislee clearly hasn’t been the answer at running back this year and the position has been a question mark. Dion Lewis is a jack of all trades type of football player because he’s able to catch the ball out the backfield, he can run it and he can also make an impact in the special teams aspect of things. Out of every running back they have, he’s clearly their best on the roster and he’s given the Patriots some balance.

Final Analysis: This will be the 35th career playoff game for Tom Brady, that is absolutely remarkable. He’s been in more playoff games by himself than some franchises have been in as an entire team. With a victory, the Patriots will advance to the AFC Championship for the sixth year in a row. I see the Patriots really doubling Delanie Walker in the red area and they’ll have to really limit Derrick Henry. For the Titans, running the ball and Mariota playing within himself will be key.

Prediction: Patriots 31 Titans 17