As the New England Patriots prepare for the 2017 NFL playoffs, Full Press Patriots provides a first look at their Divisional Round opponents, the Tennessee Titans.
Head-to-Head Result: No regular season matchup
Offense Rank: 19th in points per game (20.9 per game); 23rd in yards per game (314 per game); 15th in rush yards per game (114.6 per game); 23rd in pass yards per game (199.4 per game)
Defense Rank: 17th in points allowed (22.2 per game); 13th in yards allowed (328 yards per game); 4th in rush defense (88.8 per game); 25th in pass yards per game (239.2 per game)
Key Offensive Players: Marcus Mariota QB, Derrick Henry RB, DeMarco Murray RB, Delanie Walker TE, Rishard Matthews WR
Key Defensive Players: Jurrell Casey DT, Kevin Byard S, Wesley Woodyard LB, Derrick Morgan LB
Why this is a good matchup for the Patriots:
The Patriots have yet to play the Titans in 2017, which means figuring out how they stack up isn’t as easy, but the fact they haven’t probably benefited the Titans, a team that has been wildly inconsistent. The main problem recently has been a staggeringly bad Titans offense, which hasn’t scored above 24 points since week six and has scored less than 20 points in three of their past five games. The most glaring problem has been a steep regression for quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has thrown 15 interceptions this year after having just 19 in his first two years combined when he looked like he was on the cusp of cementing his place as a stud quarterback.
When looking at a bad offense that relies heavily on the run game to score their points, it is no wonder why this would be such a favorable matchup for New England. The Patriots are among the top offenses in football ranking first in total yards led by their stellar passing game, which ranked second in the NFL. With Tom Brady at the helm, the Patriots would be able to score in bunches and pressure the Titans into having to abandon their run game and leave the ball in the hands of Mariota, who as mentioned earlier has been prone to more poor throws than in the past.
The Patriots multiple offenses and diverse cast of offensive weapons they can use in the passing game give them a massive edge and one that would surely be exploited in a potential game.
Why this is a bad matchup for the Patriots:
The Patriots should have no reason to fear or avoid anyone. They have been great at home and have been great in all three phases recently. However, the Titans do have a path to beating the Patriots if they can get pressure on Brady with four or five rushers and make him feel the rush, as well as pair that with a solid man-to-man coverage. That though seems unlikely considering the Titans top sack man is Derrick Morgan with 7.5 sacks and they aren’t great against the pass.
Despite that, they can control the ball and keep Brady off the field, lowering the potential for New England to blow them out of the water. If the Titans use their strength which is their offensive line and their two-headed monster at running back, they could magnify each possession for a Patriots offense that has struggled to separate from coverage in recent weeks.
Key Matchup: Patrick Chung/Devin McCourty/ vs Delanie Walker
Of the Titans weapons, Delanie Walker is clearly the most explosive considering he is one of the better all-around tight ends in the game. Walker has solid athleticism, good hands and is a good in-line blocker who can move people. The Patriots would most likely rely on Patrick Chung or Devin McCourty to cover Walker, who is like a safety blanket for Mariota, but could also use bracket coverage or use a bigger corner like Gilmore or Rowe on Walker. There are a lot of options for Belichick and Patricia, but they need to keep him in check.
Favorability scale (1 being ‘stay away’ / 5 being ‘neutral’ / 10 being ‘Mr. Kraft should fly them here himself’)
8– The Titans do not really pose much of a threat considering how much trouble they have had scoring points, as well as their poor pass coverage this year. They also do not possess strong enough man to man corners nor a dominant pass rush, two things that have been the formula to beat the Patriots in the past and this year. They could control the time of possession, but with how strong the red zone defense has been for the Patriots, it’s difficult see them scoring enough touchdowns even in that scenario.
–David Albiani is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @david_albiani