It isn’t ideal, but it’s the cards they were dealt. For the first time in 10 years, the New England Patriots will be playing on wild card weekend. They will face off against the Tennesse Titans, a team they beat in the divisional round two years ago. They’ve had their struggles throughout the season, but this is the time of year that Patriots football is kicked into another gear.
The doubters are out in full force for these playoffs, but you know Bill and Tom will have something to say about that. Here are three keys to a Patriots wild card weekend victory.
Three Keys to a Patriots Victory
Eliminate A.J Brown
Titans WR A.J Brown has been an emerging star for this Tennnesse squad this season. The rookie wideout from Mississippi nearly eclipsed 1000 yards in his rookie season and has slowly improved his game over the second half of the season. He has the ability to devastate even the elite secondaries in the league and can do so on any given play. Stephon Gilmore will without a doubt be shadowing Brown for most of the game.
It may seem obvious, but Brown can change a game in the same way Tyreek Hill can change a game. One blown coverage play and Brown is off to the races. He has got to be contained to limit this weaker Titans’ passing attack. Without A.J Brown, Ryan Tannehill will struggle with finding a receiver he can rely on, further pushing this Tennesse squad to commit to a one-dimensional offensive scheme, which would be much easier for Belichick to subdue.
Sony Michel Needs to Find a Grove
Sony Michel has struggled immensely this year, partly due to the struggles the Patriots have had at offensive line. Last year, Michel exploded in the playoffs, averaging over 300 yards on the ground over the Patriots three playoff games. Not to mention matching his touchdown output for the season in just three playoff games (6). If last year is any indication, Michel should have a prominent role this year as well. The Titans have a great front seven that has stifled teams to just four yards per carry, good enough for seventh in the league.
I’d expect the Patriots to lean on Michel a lot against the Titans, hopefully opening up the passing attack later in the game. Michel can not only be important to put points up on the board himself, but he can open the game up for guys like James White and Julian Edelman. Play action plays are extremely important to the Patriots gameplan, and having a strong running game can open the field up immensely.
Pressure Ryan Tannehill
The Titans do a fantastic job of protecting their quarterback, ranking sixth in time to throw (2.9 seconds). Could this be the formula for the Titans’ recent success? It definitely helps. The Patriots average roughly three sacks per game, which is great in the grand scheme of things. But it’ll be a necessity for that front seven to get to Tannehill quickly.
They don’t need sacks every game, but they need to make Tannehill feel uncomfortable. Close the pocket, make him scramble, and you should have some great success on Saturday.
Four Games to Victory
It’s a change of pace for the Patriots, who haven’t played on wild card weekend in over a decade. Tom Brady is 2-0 vs. the Titans in the Playoffs, but this Titans team is no joke. The Patriots are in their element. January football in Gillette. it doesn’t get any better than that. This game will be won and lost by the Patriots. It’s time to see what Brady and Belichick have left in the tank. And I think it’s a lot more than people think.
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