“Family Feud”

AFC Wild Card

(6) Tennessee Titans at (3) New England Patriots 

Titans: The minute they made the decision to start Ryan Tannehill at quarterback which ended up paying off, I knew the playoffs were a strong possibility. Things just started to gel for them when they made the switch. For the second time in three seasons, the Tennessee Titans are playing January football. I enjoy watching this team because they can do a wide variety of things to win games. This is one of the few old school teams we have remaining in this era of football. They play the game like a team in the 90s. It’s a hardnosed style of football that includes a physical offensive line. The Titans can beat you in a variety of different ways. On offense, they will make it a point of emphasis to run the football. Derrick Henry is finally looking like the guy we thought he’d be when he was drafted. I’ll admit I’ve been critical of him because as big as he is, he’d sometimes play soft to me. Derrick let me tell you something: You are 6’3 and you weigh 238 pounds. You’re built like a linebacker playing running back. Don’t you dare hesitate to run through someone. Another way they’re able to beat you is through the air. Ryan Tannehill getting out of Miami was the best thing for him. He’s looked like a different guy. Ryan also has two wide receivers who are becoming quite the tandem to watch. Corey Davis and A.J. Brown are becoming nightmares for defensive backfields weekly. You try to limit one guy; you then focus on trying to shut down the other. The Titans can also dominate you with their defense. Dean Pees can mix things up. He doesn’t have the speed of other defenses, but he makes sure his units swarm to the football. They’ll have their hands full on Sunday as they face the defending champs.

Patriots: This is unfamiliar territory for them. In their last nine playoff appearances, they’ve always been penciled in to clinch one of the top two seeds in the AFC playoffs which would not only guarantee them a home playoff game, but a week off in the first round hence why it’s called a first-round bye. I’m about to take it back for you. The last time the New England Patriots played in the Wild Card round, Wes Welker was still a Patriot. So was Randy Moss and he’s now a member of the Hall of Fame. It’s been a while for them. Just when it looked as if they were breezing through everyone through the regular season, they hit that bump in the road. The first eight games of the year, they looked like a strong force according to some of the experts. After the loss to the Ravens, things were a challenge for them. Their offense hasn’t been as strong as it’s been in previous years. The best effort I saw from them was when they played the Buffalo Bills in week 16. Tom was able to take a shot or two down the field in the passing game. What helps them significantly is when they can pound the football in between the tackles with their running game. Whether it’s Sony Michel or Rex Burkhead, the Patriots will find a way to run that ball. I think they’re at their best when they get their ground game going. When they start, they don’t let up. They will keep running until your defense can stop them. Speaking of the defense, they all deserve game balls. They’ve been the backbone of this entire team all year long. When you need them to deliver a stop at key moments of the game, they do just that. The champs will begin their title defense by welcoming the Titans to town.

Titans Player to Watch: Jurrell Casey– He’s one of the more underappreciated defensive linemen in football. I think he’s a misleading football player because of his size. He’s 300 pounds but moves as if he were 250. He’s extremely quick on his feet for a man his size. Jurrell can line up as a defensive end or on the interior of the defensive line. He’s a very difficult guy to figure out because you never know which way he’s going. He’s a tackling machine. Number 99 is also very nimble with his moves.

Patriots Player to Watch: Sony Michel– This is who the offense needs to flow through. In my humble opinion, he’s being underutilized. Both Rex Burkhead and James White are third down backs. Both are excellent in space as receivers and great when it comes to pass blocking. On first and second down, you can depend on Rex here and there, but not James to run in between the tackles consistently. This is where Sony needs to get his carries early on. New England is a different beast when they decide to run the football. If he can get at least 21-26 carries, this will be a good thing for the Patriots offense.

Final Analysis: There’s a lot of connections between the two teams. That’s why I titled this “Family Feud”. Mike Vrabel is now the head coach of the Tennessee Titans. He was a key piece during the Patriots’ first dynasty in the 2000’s on their Super Bowl winning defenses. Logan Ryan and Dion Lewis also played for New England. Both now play for the Titans. Out of every Wild Card matchup, this was the one that intrigued me the most. The Patriots biggest flaw on defense has been stopping quarterbacks that can move the pocket. They also struggle to defend the quick pass. I see the Titans throwing screen passes to Brown and Davis to get them off their rhythm. Derrick Henry must be big for Titans. He needs to wear down the New England defense. Tannehill also needs to take care of the ball. You turn the ball over on this Patriots defense, they will make you pay. This could be the game where Brady gets more into a rhythm in the passing game. The Tennessee pass defense struggles.

Prediction: Patriots 23 Titans 21

 

2 thoughts on ““Family Feud”

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