The Tennessee Titans (8-3) travel to the Northeast looking to get back on track, as they take on the New England Patriots (7-4) in Foxborough, Massachusetts on Sunday.
Thanks to a six-game win streak by the Titans, which was snapped last week in a home loss to the Houston Texans, and a current five-game winning streak by the Patriots, this matchup has turned into a showdown between two of the top teams in the AFC.
After a 2-4 start, the Patriots have worked their way to the top of the AFC East and with a win, would be tied for the most wins in the conference. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones has played well during the winning streak, but the Patriots’ defense has really stood out as of late, allowing 13 total points the last three games.
As for the Titans, how will they respond after a rough outing last week against the Texans. Between multiple significant injuries and turnovers, the game last week at Nissan Stadium seemed to have a snowball effect in the middle of a downpour.
Now that we have all dried out from Sunday, let’s move on to this week. Adrian Peterson was waived this week and Dontrell Hilliard was added to the roster. We saw some flashes in the running game last week, but the score differential did not allow the Titans to keep it on the ground. Keeping the score close early in this game will be important to keep the Titans balanced on offense.
Defensively, the Titans will face a pretty balanced attack from the Patriots. Recently, not many teams have been able to make Mac Jones uncomfortable. Having seen what the Titans are capable of doing when rushing the passer, let’s see if they are able to change that on Sunday.
Final weekend of November and an AFC game. Big time game for the Titans as they head into a bye next week and into the month of December.
Tennessee (8-3) @ New England Patriots (7-4)
Game Time: 12:00 pm CDT
Location: Foxborough, MA (Gillette Stadium)
TV Broadcast Crew: Ian Eagle, Charles Davis, Evan Washburn
Radio: Titans Radio, 104.5 The Zone
Radio Broadcast Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Amie Wells, Rhett Bryan
Referee: Alex Kemp
Line: New England -6.5
Over/ Under: 44
Three Things to Watch
Next Man Up – With the amount of injuries the Titans have had to deal with, referring to the situation as “having the injury bug” does not begin to describe the obstacles the team has faced. The Titans have had 46 starters this season, one behind the New Orleans Saints for the most in the league. Since the Titans moved to Tennessee in 1999, 46 starters is the second most in a season for the franchise, trailing only the 2014 team that had 50 different starters. On the verge of playing more players in a single season than any other team in NFL history, which newest addition will step right in and contribute? Last week, it was running back Dontrell Hilliard, who had seven carries for 35 yards and eight receptions for 47 yards against the Texans. Hilliard was signed to the active roster this week, along with DB Buster Skrine and OLB John Simon. The “next man up” mentality has helped the Titans get where they are right now, and with the current injury situation, that philosophy will have to continue.
Targets in the Passing Game – Injuries have been fairly balanced among all position groups, but recently, it has been the wide receivers who have had the worst luck. Julio Jones and Marcus Johnson were both placed on IR recently, A.J. Brown took a big hit last week in the second half and did not return, and the team finished the game last week with three receivers. Golden Tate was added to the practice squad this week, which now includes wide receivers on the squad if they need to call someone up. Expect to see Dez Fitzpatrick and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine as two of the top targets if A.J. Brown can not go. With all the shuffling in the receiving corps, could this be a spot where a tight end has a big game? Geoff Swaim and Anthony Firkser both have 19 receptions this season, while MyCole Pruitt has hauled in three touchdowns. There is production to be had in the passing game, the question is: who will emerge as the top targets for Ryan Tannehill?
Pressure the Rookie QB – Has pass rush been the most frequently used “Three Things to Watch” subject? Possibly, but seeing how well the defense plays when Harold Landry, Jeffery Simmons, and DeNico Autry impact the opposing quarterback, it deserves to be mentioned. Last week was the first time all season that the Titans did not record a sack in a game. Entering this matchup against a New England offense that has found some consistency during a five-game winning streak, generating pressure against rookie quarterback Mac Jones could really benefit the Titans. Jones has been in rhythm recently, recording only four incompletions in each of his last games. During their winning streak, the rookie out of Alabama has tossed seven touchdowns compared to just two interceptions. Let’s see if pressure from the Titans defensive line can alter how comfortable the young quarterback is in the pocket.
Did You Know?
- The 2019 Wild Card victory at New England was the first road victory against the Patriots for QB Ryan Tannehill in seven tries. Tannehill lost all six starts in New England while he was with the Miami Dolphins, but he still has an active streak at Gillette Stadium that he would like to break. In all seven career starts in Foxborough, Tannehill has thrown at least one interception in every game, tossing six touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions.
- When playing on the Sunday directly after Thanksgiving, the Titans have won their last four games in this scenario. The last several instances have happened against the Colts in Indianapolis, with a 45-26 win last season, a 31-17 victory in 2019, and winning 20-16 in 2017. A 27-21 win in Chicago in 2016 improves that total to a four-game winning streak. A game in 2018 does not apply since the Titans played on Monday Night Football in Houston. The last loss for the Titans on the Sunday directly after Thanksgiving? A 24-21 loss at home to the Oakland Raiders in 2015.
- With a two-game winning streak against the Patriots, the Titans franchise has won back-to-back matchups with New England for the first time since the late 1970s. The Oilers owned a four-game winning streak over the Patriots from 1975-1980, which still stands as the longest winning streak by the Titans in this series.