The past week has been an interesting one for the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots. The Titans probably shouldn’t have even been in the NFL playoffs, while they were never expected to beat the Chiefs in Kansas City, either.
For an entire half, the Titans seemed out of place as expected, but a collapse by KC gave them new life and they found a way to advance to round two of the playoffs.
Their reward? A date with this year’s Super Bowl favorites, who are probably pretty miffed about an ongoing rumor about a schism amongst their big three in owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and star quarterback, Tom Brady.
Whether there’s any truth to the rift at the top of the Pats’ organization is moot, though. These professionals will likely put any differences to the side in an effort to get New England back to the Super Bowl for a chance at repeating as champions.
For the moment, both teams are on opposite sides of the spectrum in every regard. Regardless, Vegas isn’t handing out knee-jerk reactions. The Titans were big underdogs in Kansas City and the Patriots are a much tougher out on paper.
Understandably, New England enters as massive home favorites (-13.5 at BetOnline) and some NFL betting sites are even widening that absurd gap. The big question, of course, is if it’s a crazy margin at all.
Beyond that, this game offers a fairly modest Total, while the Titans stroll in with tantalizing value as +660 straight up underdogs at 5Dimes.
So, which way should bettors lean in this game? Let’s break this matchup down further to find out:
Little about this matchup looks great for the Titans, but they actually have been good against the spread this year (3-1 as underdogs).
I’m not sure that really moves the needle for me, though. Tennessee’s ATS record drops to 2-1 as road underdogs and they were just 3-5 on the road this year, straight up.
The Pats tend to take care of business in Foxborough, too. New England went 6-2 at home during the regular season and they were a respectable 5-3 against the spread as home favorites. New England was the far more reliable ATS performer on the year (11-5), too, while Tennessee was a middling 9-7.
If you want to latch onto some faint ATS numbers to prop up the Titans, that’s your call.
For me, the Titans are a fairly predictable offensive team that normally isn’t that explosive. DeMarco Murray has already been ruled out for the second straight playoff game, too, which is going to put a ton of pressure on Derrick Henry.
In theory, Tennessee could still be able to set the tone for this game. Henry is an explosive, decisive and punishing runner. He destroyed the Chiefs last week and gets a Patriots defense that ranked just 22nd against the run this year.
The only problem there is Bill Belichick defenses have a tendency to take away the opposing offense’s biggest strength. In this matchup, that’s far and away Henry.
Marcus Mariota came up big last week, but he also got considerably lucky. I’m not sure bettors can safely bank on him having another huge outing, especially considering he put up more interceptions than touchdowns on the year and the Titans produced the NFL’s 23rd best passing offense on the year.
The Pats should rattle Mariota early and limit big plays for a Tennessee passing game that simply hasn’t found them with any consistency. Regardless, they should also stack the box and contain Henry, which will force Mariota to play a near-perfect game to even keep this thing close.
On the other side, it’s tough to deny Tom Brady and the #1 passing attack in football. Unlike last year, the Pats have a healthy Rob Gronkowski leading the charge in a very potent passing game.
Danny Amendola is a solid option in the slot, Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks stretch the defense and New England’s 10th ranked rushing attack gives the Pats the balance a title contender needs.
That could be somewhat problematic initially against a strong Titans run defense (4th in the NFL), but if Brady and the passing game get going early – and they should against the league’s 25th best secondary – it could be a moot point.
Stats and matchup aside, this is Tom Brady versus Marcus Mariota, Bill Belichick against Mike Mularkey and a severe underdog trying to beat the odds on the road for the second week in a row.
New England is the better team in every regard, they’re at home and they’ve been favored all season to get back to the Super Bowl and repeat as champions.
It’s possible the Titans give bettors something to worry about initially, but I doubt it lasts. New England is simply too powerful and once they get ahead, they’ll get a weak Titans offense in a spot they can’t afford to be in.
I expect a housing as the Pats go out of their way to send a message. A 2-score margin is a fine starting point, even if it at first feels a little gaudy.