Titans can make massive statement vs. Patriots
The Tennessee Titans haven’t been truly relevant since the days of Eddie George and Steve McNair. That can start changing on Saturday night.
Tennessee takes on the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium under the lights, getting a chance to knock off the three-time defending AFC champs. New England hasn’t been up to its own standard this season, but remains one of the league’s best at 12-4. However, there are cracks in the proverbial armor.
Tom Brady is 42 years old and finally looking like his age. Brady has endured arguably the worst season of his career since his second year (and first starting). Julian Edelman remains elite but is dealing with a serious shoulder injury, limiting him in practice and games.
In short, the Patriots are extremely vulnerable. The Titans have a real shot.
Tennessee comes into the game as the AFC’s sixth seed with a 9-7 record, but that mark doesn’t accurately reflect the tenor of the team. The Titans are playing very well since inserting Ryan Tannehill into the starting lineup in lieu of Marcus Mariota, going 7-3 in those 10 games. Tannehill has played like a top-10 signal-caller, helping rookie receiver A.J. Brown to emerge as a star. Brown has been the league’s best rookie over the past month, pushing over the 1,000-yard mark. The Ole Miss product has amassed at least 114 yards in four of his last six games.
Then there’s Derrick Henry. Henry claimed the league’s rising title on Sunday, stomping through defenses for 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground, both league bests. New England has been excellent defensively but can struggle against the running game. Henry hopes to take full advantage of the weakness.
While the Titans are deserved underdogs going into the game, there’s reason to believe they pull the upset. Beyond the formidable trio of Tannehill, Henry and Brown, the defense is dotted with playmakers such as tackle Jurrell Casey, corner Logan Ryan and safety Kevin Byard.
They also have Mike Vrabel on the sidelines. Vrabel won three Super Bowls in New England as a linebacker, playing under current head coach Bill Belichick. He should have a good idea of how Belichick will attack and which ways to effectively counter.
With a win, the Titans would have their biggest victory in over 15 years. They would advance to take on the Baltimore Ravens and be a game from the AFC Championship.
All they have to do is beat the Patriots.