Will Tennessee Titans spoil the New England Patriots’ party? | NFL News


Tom Brady and the Patriots have been stumbling through the second half of the season without their usual dominance

Tom Brady and the Patriots have been stumbling through the second half of the season without their usual dominance

The Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots have been trending in opposite directions in the second half of the NFL regular season.

After reaching an 8-0 record by midseason, the defending Super Bowl champions Patriots stumbled to 4-4 through the second half, and ultimately threw away the No 2 seed in the conference with a shock loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 17.

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Meanwhile, since Ryan Tannehill took over as the Titans starting quarterback in Week Seven, he has led them to a 7-3 record and they have won five of their last seven.

Perhaps more crucially, the Titans have been scoring for fun while Tom Brady and company have started to stumble.

Tennessee have only scored under 24 points once since Week Nine, and they have averaged 33.4 in that span. The Patriots have only scored more than 24 points once in that same period (against the lowly Bengals), and are managing just 21.4 per game.

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Thrills, drama and amazing plays in huge moments. The NFL playoffs begin on Sky Sports this Saturday

Thrills, drama and amazing plays in huge moments. The NFL playoffs begin on Sky Sports this Saturday

Are we set for a shock early exit to start the decade for the usually-dominant Patriots?

Tannehill vs Brady: Who has the edge?

Ryan Tannehill has been airing it out for the Titans since he entered the lineup

Ryan Tannehill has been airing it out for the Titans since he entered the lineup

At any other points in the careers of Tannehill and Brady, you’d take the 42-year old New England QB – easily. He has the Super Bowls, the playoff success, the records in the history books and ultimately, everything you want in a quarterback in the biggest moments.

Meanwhile, 31-year-old Tannehill has gone through the first 100 games of his career as mostly an unknown, or at least little-talked-about character. In those 100 games (98 starts), he has a 49-49 record and never made the playoffs once in his seven years with the Miami Dolphins.

So why now has it become a toss-up of which quarterback has the best chance of leading their team to the next round of the postseason?

Quite simply, look at the key stats of the two since Tannehill made his first start for the Titans in Week Seven.

Tannehill vs Brady in last 10 starts

StatisticRyan TannehillTom Brady
Comp188224
Att270385
Comp %69.658.2
TD2214
INT55
Rating119.682.3
Y/A9.66.0
Record7-36-4

Stats can be misleading, team wins don’t all come down to quarterback play and there are other elements involved, but it is clear who has been the better of the two as we approach the knockout games.

And it’s not just Brady who Tannehill has outshone this season. He led the entire league in passer rating (117.5) over the course of the season while Brady (88.0) finished 19th.

With a rich history of games against Brady while playing in the AFC East, only one other quarterback (Peyton Manning, six wins) has won more games head-to-head vs the six-time Super Bowl Champion than Tannehill. Will Tannehill improve on his 4-6 record vs Brady on Saturday?

Talented Titans’ O vs New England’s No 1 defense

Derrick Henry ended up as the NFL's leading rusher despite a slow start and missing a game

Derrick Henry ended up as the NFL’s leading rusher despite a slow start and missing a game

Over the course of the regular season, New England finished as the NFL’s No 1 total defense both in points (14.1) and yards (275.9) allowed per game – but they were 12-0 when they allowed fewer than 20 points, and 0-4 when allowing 20-plus.

Can they contain the red-hot Titans offense that boasts the NFL leaders in both passer rating (Tannehill) and rushing yards (Derrick Henry)?

Henry’s rise with Tannehill at the helm has been transcendent, capped by a 32-carry, 211-yard and three-TD performance in Week 17 in which he secured the rushing title – even after missing the game before with a hamstring injury.

Derrick Henry’s improvement

StatisticWeeks 1-6Weeks 7-17
Games69
Attempts113190
A/G18.821.1
Rush yards4161124
Y/G69.3124.9
Y/A3.75.9
Rush TD412

The 6-foot-3, 247-pound freight train of a running back took his game to the next level with the help of his new quarterback. Henry had achieved four 100-yard rushing games in his three-year career before this season, but reached that mark four times in the last five games of this one.

However, he comes up against a group that allowed just 95.5 yards on the ground per game – and history doesn’t bode well for the rushing champion. In the three occasions since 1970 that the NFL rushing leader has faced the No 1 total defense in the playoffs, those runners are 0-3 and none have achieved more than 77 yards.

This Patriots D has been arguably the best of the Bill Belichick era, and there have been some great ones. But they will need to bring their A-game to contain Tannehill, Henry and surprising rookie receiver A.J. Brown, who has exploded over the last six games.

Stephon Gilmore has starred in New England's sturdy defense this season

Stephon Gilmore has starred in New England’s sturdy defense this season

He finished the year with 1,051 receiving yards (most among rookies) and nine scrimmage touchdowns (also most). His 605 receiving yards since Week 12 lead the entire league, and on the year he averaged an insane 20.2 yards per catch. That led the NFL and was the most by a rookie receiver in the Super Bowl era, ahead of Randy Moss (19.0), Julio Jones (17.8) and T.Y. Hilton (17.2).

With all that said, the Patriots won’t be afraid. Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower are formidable forces at linebacker. Cornerbacks J.C. Jackson (37.0) and Stephon Gilmore (47.4) both rank in the top three in the NFL in pass rating allowed this season, per Pro Football Focus. There are playmakers at every level.

Which of these two groups will come out on top?

Who steps up for the Patriots?

Julian Edelman has been a playoff hero for the Patriots throughout his career

Julian Edelman has been a playoff hero for the Patriots throughout his career

On the other side of the ball, it’s not all about Tom Brady. It never is.

Every postseason, every Super Bowl run, someone steps up for the Patriots.

Julian Edelman – even with the knee and shoulder issues that have kept him on the injury report – will be a factor on Saturday night. In his past two postseasons alone (six games), he has managed 47 catches, 730 yards, two Vince Lombardi Trophies and a Super Bowl MVP award.

Last postseason, Sony Michel came up with six touchdowns. The season before, Danny Amendola was the man of the moment, leading the team in targets, catches and receiving yards. James White could have easily been named Super Bowl LI MVP for his 14-catch, 139-yard, three-TD effort against the Falcons.

James White has stepped up when it mattered for New England, including a big performance in Super Bowl LI

James White has stepped up when it mattered for New England, including a big performance in Super Bowl LI

Who will lend Brady a helping hand this time?

Could it be Rex Burkhead, who has accumulated 210 of his 581 season-long scrimmage yards in the last three games? How about rookie N’Keal Harry? He missed the first half of the season through injury, but received a season-high seven targets in Week 17. Mohamed Sanu has been extremely quiet since his trade from Atlanta – have the Pats been saving him for a big postseason?

If the Titans advance to the next round, we will likely be talking about big performances from their star names. If New England move on, look out for one of their many ‘team players’ to steal the spotlight and remind us all what makes this dynasty so special.

The playoffs begin this weekend when the Buffalo Bills visit the Houston Texans on Saturday at 9pm, live on Sky Sports Action, followed by Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots.

Sunday’s coverage begins at 5.30pm on SS Action, with the Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints followed by Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles.





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