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NFL Divisional Playoffs Preview: Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots
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13 Jan 2018 10:47 AM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Tennessee running back Derrick Henry in postseason debut at Kansas City. (Image Source: Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

Here’s a look at the Divisional Playoffs matchup between the New England Patriots and the Tennessee Titans:

Series: Patriots lead 24-16-1; Streak: Patriots have won the past six; Last Meeting: Patriots 33, Titans 16 (12.20.15)

Time (Saturday): 8:15 PM ET; TV: CBS (Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson)

How They Got Here:

In his playoff debut, head coach Mike Mularkey led the Tennessee Titans to one of the greatest comebacks in postseason history. The Titans overcame an 18-point deficit to win their first playoff game in 14 years. The deficit overcome was the second-highest by a road team in a playoff game in NFL history. The New England Patriots won their ninth-straight AFC East title and have won at least 12 games for eight-consecutive years, both NFL records.

When the Titans Have the Ball:

In Tennessee’s win, quarterback Marcus Mariota took dual-threat to the next level. One of five players in NFL history with 9,000-plus passing yards and at least 900 rushing yards through three seasons, Mariota connected on two TD passes last week, one of which he caught (of a deflection). Pure in the red zone, Mariota now has 40 touchdowns and no interceptions inside the opponent’s 20. Delaine Walker is Mariota’s favorite target and he’s one of two tight ends with 800-plus receiving yards in each of the past four seasons. With DeMarco Murray out, Derrick Henry stepped up big time in his postseason debut with 156 rushing yards and a TD. An explosive runner, Henry led the NFL with three scoring scampers of 65-plus yards.

Who will step up for a Patriots defense that has been vulnerable? They’re experienced in the secondary with the likes of cornerback Malcolm Butler and safety Devin McCourty. In his past six postseason game, Butler has an interception and seven passes defensed, while McCourty posted a career-high 94 tackles this season to lead the team. In his last playoff game, defensive end Trey Flowers recorded 2.5 sacks in Super Bowl LI. Recent addition outside linebacker James Harrison is a proven postseason performer with 11 career sacks, tied for fifth in NFL history.

When the Patriots Have the Ball:

On their way 13 wins, the Patriots led the NFL in total offense (394.2) and were the top scoring team in the AFC (28.6). In Tom Brady, the Patriots have the most prolific passer in postseason history. He’s topped 300 yards 12 times and has a 25-9 record in the playoffs. At 40, Brady is still elite. He led the league with 4,577 yards and the conference with 32 TD passes. Rob Gronkowski led all tight ends with 1,084 yards. In five career playoff games he’s put up 431 yards and caught six touchdowns. Coming out of the backfield, Dion Lewis has 366 scrimmage yards in his past three, while James White (questionable) set a Super Bowl record with 14 receptions and three TDs last year. Lewis led the club with a career-high 896 rushing yards.

In order to have a chance, the Titans know they will have to disrupt Tom Brady’s rhythm. We saw defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (1 sack) and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (1.5 sack) get to the quarterback last week, so they have the ability to get into the offensive backfield from the interior and off the edge. Casey had six sacks this season and a team high-high 12 tackles for loss. Derrick Morgan joined Orakpo as an outside rusher and the duo combined for 14.5 sacks. Inside linebacker Wesley Woodyard posted a career-high 121 tackles and was one of three players with 100-plus tackles and at least five sacks this season.

Score: Patriots 28, Titans 20

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. 

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