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The NFL playoffs are here and it’s going to start the same way the previous decade started, with the New England Patriots in the Wild Card round. After avoiding the Wild Card round for a decade, they’ll face off against the Tennessee Titans in a rematch from the 2018 Divisional Round.
Despite finishing the season at 12-4, the New England Patriots couldn’t finish the job against the Miami Dolphins in week 17. The loss not only cost New England a first round bye but a home field advantage opportunity in the divisional round of the playoffs. The last time New England played in a Wild Card round, they lost to the Ravens 33-14.
After starting the season 2-3, the Tennessee Titans made a change at quarterback, benching Marcus Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill. After the change, they went on a tear, going 7-4. Now Tannehill looks to haunt New England for failing to beat Miami.
Keys To The Game:
Tennessee’s hardest challenge will be simply going into Foxboro and trying to beat New England. The last time the Patriots lost at home in the playoffs was to the Baltimore Ravens in the 2013 AFC Championship game. If Tennessee can approach this like a normal game, then they should have a shot. However, that’s easier said than done.
New England will face a very well balanced Tennessee offense. While they’ve been proficient in stopping both the run and the pass well, their losses came to well balanced teams including the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans. If New England can get Tennessee to abandon either the pass or run early and throw off the balance, they could go into the drivers seat.
The x-factor for Tennessee is Ryan Tannehill. Coming into the season, Tannehill was the back up to Mariota. Since taking over, he’s found new life in Nashville. In his career, he’s never played in a playoff game.
Given the year he’s had, this could be his one shot at a playoff win. Will we see the Tannehill that Tennessee has loved or the one that Miami couldn’t wait to dump?
New England’s x-factor is a whole core, never mind one player. Quarterback Tom Brady has had one major safety valve in the postseason that’s no longer there: Rob Gronkowski. Ben Watson, Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse are really going to need to step up in close yard and red zone situations. If they don’t, Brady’s other weapons may be nice, but they won’t have that sure fire closer.
Tennessee’s offense is very good: halfback Derrick Henry lead the league in rushing yards, Tannehill lead in passer rating, wide receiver A.J. Brown is poised to be in the running for offensive rookie of the year. However, you can’t bet against the New England Patriots. Even in their worst years, they somehow find ways to win. New England beats Tennessee, 31-21.