Brian Blanco/Associated Press
Against playoff teams this season, the Patriots went just 3-3 with a negative scoring margin. They’ve looked utterly pedestrian, even in Foxborough. They had won 18 consecutive regular-season home games before falling to both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium in December.
With that in mind, the majority of our analysts are down with taking a handful of points with Tennessee on Saturday night.
“I know, I know. It’s the Patriots. Never bet against the Patriots,” said Sobleski, who is taking Tennessee on the moneyline. “It’s too tempting, though. New England isn’t playing nearly as well as we’ve seen in recent years, and its personnel isn’t nearly as good, especially on offense. The league’s leading rusher is also coming to town, and Bill Belichick’s defense isn’t exactly stout against the run. That doesn’t even take into account that Ryan Tannehill is playing better than Tom Brady this season. Yes, you read that correctly.”
Statistically speaking, that’s indisputable. And Sobleski is also right about New England’s somewhat soft run defense, which only a few weeks ago was roughed up by Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard and now has to deal with Henry.
Now, only the Patriots are better than the Bills at taking away No. 1 receivers. In fact, New England’s pass defense is historically good, and top cornerback Stephon Gilmore is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
But Gilmore hasn’t been himself in recent weeks, and the Pats have become a lot less efficient across the board on D. Now they have to deal with one of the hottest offenses in the league, and Gilmore could have his hands full with top Titans wideout A.J. Brown, who put together four 110-yard performances in the final six weeks of the regular season.
That has Davenport convinced this’ll be a close game, even if he’s not willing to go the moneyline route with Tennessee.
“I get the temptation to take Tennessee to win this outright,” he said, “especially after the Patriots fell flat at home in Week 17 against the Miami Dolphins. But I just can’t see even these flawed Patriots losing two in a row at Gillette Stadium. That said, this spread’s big enough that Tennessee and the points is the play against the spread.”
But we don’t have a unanimous consensus here because Gagnon is having a hard time believing in the Titans and a harder time giving up on the Pats.
“New England will have a lot of trouble moving the ball,” he admitted, “especially if Logan Ryan can shut down a banged-up Edelman. But Tennessee doesn’t have the pass-rushing prowess to get to Brady, which is undoubtedly the key to beating the Patriots in the playoffs. And we all know how good the Pats are at taking away their opponent’s top weapon. If they can remove Henry from the equation, I’m not betting on Tannehill in his first-ever playoff start or Brown in his first-ever playoff game against Gilmore, Belichick and the rest of that New England D.”
He’s outnumbered, but it’s worth noting that those picking against the majority as lone wolves are 79-64-2 this season.
Davenport: Patriots 24, Titans 20
Gagnon: Patriots 26, Titans 20
Sobleski: Titans 27, Patriots 20
Consensus: Tennessee (+5)
Score Prediction: Patriots 24, Titans 21