Win one-on-one matchups vs. Pats’ secondary
The Pats know that the Titans offense rotates around Derrick Henry. The Titans are 6-0 when Henry breaks a 100 rushing yards this season. While the Titans will look to get Henry going early, the Pats will look to stop Henry, particularly in the second half.
Luckily for the Titans, Ryan Tannehill has been a revelation at quarterback this year. Tannehill’s play guided the Titans to a Wild Card berth despite not starting at the beginning of the season. Tannehill’s accuracy and tight-window throws have allowed A.J. Brown and Corey Davis to make plays with their athleticism.
On the flip side, the Patriots have the best defense and secondary in the NFL led by their All-Pro corner Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore put together a Defensive Player of the Year effort this season, blanketing many of the league’s top receivers. Cornerback J.C. Jackson has been electric as a slot corner, while Devin McCourty and Jamie Collins are terrific in the middle of the field.
Furthermore, Bill Belichick has this defense firing on all cylinders. Belichick has thrown a variety of new and exotic looks at offenses this year, perplexing even the best offensive minds in the game.
Outside of the baffling season-ending loss to the Dolphins, the Pats lost games against Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson. All three quarterbacks led their teams to the playoffs by winning the division.
Tannehill has occasionally shown a penchant to hold the ball to find a big play. Given the strength of the Pats, it will be crucial for Tannehill to get rid of the ball and avoid sacks. Tennessee still struggles on third downs and needs to keep the Pats’ defense playing both the run and pass at all times. Long third downs will allow the Pats to play coverage and take away the passing threats.
Tennessee’s skill players need to win their one-on-one matchups, and particularly Corey Davis with the Pats most likely to have Gilmore shadow Brown. Jonnu Smith’s ability to contribute will also be incredibly important.
If the Titans can get production out of their No. 2 and No. 3 receivers, then they have a good shot at winning this game.