It has been since the 2009 NFL season since the New England Patriots did not hold a first-round bye in the playoffs. That year they lost to the Baltimore Ravens as the three seed, but this year they maintain their streak and will face the Tennessee Titans.
There has been a lot to talk about during the last week as the Patriots got some needed rest. ESPN published an article on how there is turmoil at the top of the dynasty between owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and star quarterback Tom Brady. Even if there is any truth to the article, it served more as a distraction for the rest of the league rather than some insight into what is actually going on.
A better topic of discussion came from Titans safety Kevin Byard who stated openly that he wanted to make Brady look like Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles. Bleacher Report’s Chris Simms ranks Bortles as the number 70 active quarterback in the league, 20 spots behind his backup Chad Henne. These are some big words, and no doubt Brady has had some rough games this season, but Byard will have his work cut out for him if he intends to make such a star quarterback look like hot garbage on the field.
Probably the most under-reported story though of the week was the commitment this team has to the game:
"It's a beautiful day." pic.twitter.com/2smtX7sSSy
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 4, 2018
New England Patriots Injury Report
Three of the Patriots four running backs were limited in practice this week with Mike Gillislee (Knee) sitting out during the first practice. Running back Rex Burkhead is also dealing with a knee injury and James White has an ankle injury. If the Titans defensive backs to make things tough for Brady, the team will need to rely on their running backs to march down the field. Luckily, Belichick can win with any of their backs and one of them was not listed on the report, the explosive Dion Lewis.
The defense also took a hit as linebacker Marquis Flowers was out with an illness at the beginning of the week and then limited in later practices. Kyle Van Noy who is dealing with a calf injury was also limited in practice this week.
Other players who were limited in practice this week: defensive linemen Alan Branch (Knee) and Eric Lee (Ankle/ Finger), and wide receiver Chris Hogan (Shoulder).
On Thursday, the Patriots fielded perfect attendance for the first time since September 29. Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who spent the entirety on Injured Reserve, participated, as well. The Pats have until Friday at 4 pm ET to activate Mitchell for the game on Saturday.
Tennessee Titans Injury Report
The Titans were able to engineer an amazing upset against the Kansas City Chiefs to advance out of the wildcard weekend and will travel to Foxborough, MA. Their sophomore running back Derrick Henry has overtaken running back DeMarco Murray’s starting job while Murray has been out with a knee injury. This week Murray has not practiced and is already ruled out for what should be the last game of the Titans season.
Guard Quinton Spain was held from practice early in the week with a back injury but put in a full practice later in the week. Linebacker Brian Orakpo also missed the first practice of the week from a non-injury related day off, possibly a veteran’s day off. Cornerback A Logan Ryan was limited in one practice this week but then completed a full practice while dealing with an ankle injury.
–Nate Cheatham is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the Detriot Lions and the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @natecheat