The New England Patriots take on the Tennesse Titans on Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. This Divisional Round matchup promises to be an exciting one. While the Patriots are favored, the Titans know that they have the talent and perseverance to stand toe-to-toe with the Champs.
Earlier this week, Managing Editors Mike D’Abate (FPC Patriots) and Dean Williams (FPC Titans) sat down to discuss this matchup.
Here is a look from the Titans perspective, per Dean Williams.
MD: Who has been the Titans MVP for 2017? Why?
DW: On offense, it has to be Marcus Mariota. The last two games, against the Jaguars and Chiefs, you can see from his body language he’s got a swagger that wasn’t there previously. Some guys play quarterback and some guys lead teams.
Defensively it’s Jurell Casey. The three-time pro bowler is a rock in the middle and is a disruptive force. He’s the guy to account for on the Titans.
MD: The Titans ranked ninth this year in yards per carrying. Is a running game powered by Derrick Henry their best chance at pulling off the upset in Foxboro?
DW: The best way to stop the Patriots from scoring is to keep the ball away from that offense! That means they have to win the turnover battle and the Titans need manageable third down distances. That’s accomplished by running effectively. The Titans offensive line has been moving the line of scrimmage consistently. They’ll need to continue to create gaps. Controlling the flow with Henry’s fresh legs will give the Titans an edge.
MD: Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is no stranger to Tom Brady and the Patriots. What types of defensive schemes might he dial-up in hopes of stopping the Patriots offense?
DW: The Patriots present certain match-up issues for anyone. Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL and doesn’t get any better than Tom Brady throwing the football. The Titans need to disrupt the quick passing game of the Patriots. LeBeau has been good all year at finding a weak spot and attacking it with pressure. The Titans have 7 different players with at least 3 sacks. To bring pressure against the Patriots, the secondary for Tennessee is going to have to play a tremendous football game and LeBeau needs to pick his spots.
MD: The Patriots have employed a ‘bend, but don’t break’ type offense all year. What must the Titans consistently do to find the end zone?
DW: No, they don’t break often. The Patriots are ranked 5th in points allowed. Marcus Mariota has to keep making plays when it counts. Consistently the Titans have to keep the third downs manageable and they have to convert those. Finally, I think the Titans must hit some shots downfield to Cory Davis or Delanie Walker. That will allow Henry to have a larger impact on the Patriots run defense.
MD: What is your prediction for Saturday’s game?
DW: Before the season started a lot of people had the Titans winning the AFC South. The respect that the Titan players and coaches have for the Patriots is obvious. Coach Mularkey, in Tuesday’s press conference, “They’re the champs. These are the type of teams you have to beat if you want to be the champs.” I think you’ll see a determined, confident Titan team out to prove that they are supposed to be, in games like this. 27-24 Titans knock the Patriots out of the divisional round for the first time in 7 years.
You can follow Dean Williams on Twitter @badappleFFB and Full Press Titans @FPC_Titans.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the AFC East. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC