All the talk surrounding the New England Patriots for the past week and a half has been about whether or not the dynasty in New England is finally coming to an end. As we inch closer and closer to Saturday night’s AFC Divisional Round matchup between the Patriots and the Tennessee Titans, some people are even questioning whether or not New England can even advance to the AFC Championship game. After all, Titans running back Derrick Henry, who is usually a backup to Demarco Murray, ran for 156 yards and a touchdown in the AFC Wild Card game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was running and throwing all over the place, including an impressive touchdown pass to himself. With talented offensive players like that plus a strong defensive unit, anything is possible, right?
Well, not exactly.
Yes, it’s true that New England’s run defense has not been very strong this season. The corps of linebackers has basically been decimated by injuries. The defensive line isn’t full of big, hulking linemen like in years past. The Patriots gave up over 100 rushing yards in 10 of their 16 games this year, and they gave up more than 180 yards TWICE.
Similar things can be said about the offense. Tom Brady, despite being a front-runner for MVP of the league, has looked more mortal at times this year. Injuries took away big-time targets like Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell. And that’s not even taking into account the time missed by players like James White, Marcus Cannon.
But there’s light on the horizon as key player begin to return from injury. On the defensive side, guys like Alan Branch, Kyle Van Noy, Marquis Flowers and Vincent Valentine were all back at practice on Thursday. The other side of the ball saw Hogan, White and Mitchell all return to the practice field.
And all of that doesn’t even mention the fact that Brady is still playing at an MVP level and New England has the best tight end in all of football. The Patriots went 13-3 this year and earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC. And they did all that while dealing with controversies and injuries that would derail any other franchise.
So let’s be clear. Unless Derrick Henry has another career day and the defense plays its best game of the season, the Titans will struggle to keep pace with the Patriots on Saturday when they visit Foxborough as 14-point underdogs as reported by mytopsportsbooks.com. While Tennessee’s front seven generates solid pressure, Tom Brady is the master of getting the ball out quickly and Rob Gronkowski will be a matchup nightmare. The Titans were getting torched by Travis Kelce last week before the KC tight end got injured. Expect more of the same from Gronk and a double-digit New England win.
If you’re looking for a score, something like 38-17 Patriots sounds about right.