Patriots-Titans preview: 3 keys to the game, fun facts, prediction

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The Off Day, Ep. 196: Can Patriots stay at top of AFC standings?
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Sunday’s Patriots-Titans matchup at Gillette Stadium is a big one.

At 8-3, the Titans are currently the No. 1 seed in the AFC, while at 7-4, and winners of five straight, the Patriots came into the week as the No. 3 seed in the conference. But, following the Bills’ win on Thanksgiving they overtook the Patriots in the AFC East and as the No. 3 overall seed. New England needs a win to keep pace and regain that spot in the standings.

The Patriots are Titans are going in different directions. As mentioned, the Patriots have won five straight games and are playing their best football of the season. Meanwhile, the Titans have lost two of their last three games and are dealing with a ton of injuries. They made double-digit roster transactions this week alone.

Titans vs. Patriots
Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021
1:00, CBS
Patriots -7, over/under 43.5

3 keys to the game

Match Tennessee’s toughness

The Patriots are establishing themselves as one of the more physical teams in the league, but so are the Titans. They get that mentality from their head coach Mike Vrabel, who is 2-0 against Bill Belichick as a head coach. Even with all their injuries, the Titans will not play scared and will still be aggressive. New England will need to come out ready for a battle in the trenches. This shouldn’t be an issue for them based on what we’ve seen the past month, but it’s definitely something to monitor.

Mac Jones staying poised

The Patriots rookie seemed to get a little frustrated in the second half against Atlanta following some well-timed blitzes. Vrabel and Co. will likely have a few things for Jones to try and take him off his game, and it will be important for the rookie to keep his composure and stay patient. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Jones throw an interception against a solid Titans defense and it will be interesting to see how he responds. He threw a pick last week against the Falcons, but at that point it was pretty clear the Patriots would win the game.

Rely on passing game

The Tennessee defense is much better at defending the run than the pass. It enters the game ranked 23rd in pass defense and fifth in rushing defense. Last week against the Falcons, the Patriots made an effort to spread the ball around and get as many pass-catchers involved as possible. Players like Nelson Agholor and even N’Keal Harry could be big difference-makers in the game.

Fun Facts

1. Under Belichick, the Patriots have gone 20-1 after allowing four or less yards per play in their last game. New England allowed just 3.2 yards per play against the Falcons last week.

2. Since 2000, the Patriots are 90-12 straight up at home as a favorite of six or more points.

3. With one more interception J.C. Jackson will tie Asante Samuel for the most interceptions in consecutive seasons with the Patriots (16).

4. The Patriots have not allowed points in 19 straight opponent possessions. The Patriots record under Belichick is 35 straight drives (Sept. 8, 2019 in the third quarter to Sept. 29, 2019 in the second quarter).

5. The next touchdown reception for Hunter Henry will tie a career-high (8).

Prediction (Personal season record: 8-3)

Titans 20, Patriots 17

Even though everything says the Patriots will come away with a win, our gut says they are due for a loss and Vrabel will have his team fired up and ready to go, especially coming off a bad loss last week. If Jones can play mistake-free football and not get frustrated, the Patriots will be in good shape. But, the Titans defense is tough and could make things difficult on the Patriots rookie.

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