The New England Patriots play the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, November 28th at 1:00 PM EST. The game will be broadcast on CBS.
This Sunday’s matchup between the New England Patriots and the Tennessee Titans features the two hottest teams in the NFL. New England enters Week 12 having won their last five games (7-4 record), while Tennesse has won 6 of their last 7 (8-3 record).
The result of the clash between the Patriots and Titans will have major playoff implications. Tennessee currently holds the number one spot in the AFC, but with a New England win and a Baltimore loss, the Patriots would overtake the Titans as the number one team in the AFC standings. Needless to say, a win on Sunday afternoon would give the Patriots all kinds of momentum in the playoff race.
On paper, the Patriots seem to have the advantage going into Sunday. That’s due in large part to the massive injury issues that exist on the Titans roster. That said, Tennessee is very well-coached and they still have the talent necessary to win big games. With that in mind, here are the Patriots’ 5 keys to victory against the Titans.
Patriots Keys to Victory
Make someone other than A.J. Brown beat you (assuming he plays)
It’s’ unclear whether or not A.J. Brown will play Sunday, as he’s dealing with an injury, but if Brown does play, he would undoubtedly be the Titans’ most dangerous offensive threat.
Both Derrick Henry and Julio Jones are on injured reserve leaving Brown as the only high-level offensive weapon on the Tennesse roster. Brown, a versatile wideout that lines up in the slot and out wide, can quickly take over a game if given a chance.
For the Patriots’ defense, the top priority on Sunday should be making someone other than Brown beat them. If that means doubling Brown or shading safety help over to his side then so be it.
Tennessee simply doesn’t have any other weapons that can take over a game. Outside of Brown, the Titans have Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Chester Rodgers, and Dez Fitzpatrick at wideout. Eliminate Brown from the picture and that’s arguably the worst wide receiver group in the NFL.
The strategy is pretty clear: shut down Brown by any means necessary and make one of the lesser talented Tennessee wideouts prove they can consistently win against the Patriots’ secondary. If you’re Bill Belichick you have to feel good about those odds. J.C. Jackson, Jalen Mills, Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, and Kyle Dugger have all been playing excellent football.
Limit the big plays from the Titans defensive line
Despite edge rusher Bud Dupree recently being placed on injured reserve, the Tennessee defensive line is still very much loaded with talent. The Titans’ defensive line has totaled 27 sacks on the season, which ranks 9th most in the NFL. The defensive front is a major reason the Titans currently rank 12th in defensive DVOA rating (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average).
The leader on the Tennessee defensive front is Jeffery Simmons. Simmons is one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL. Through 11 games, Simmons has 7.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and 19 pressures. His impact on the game is immeasurable. Simmons played a key role in the Titans’ upset over the Rams in Week 9.
It’s not just the Simmons show though. Harold Landry, who is currently listed on the Tennessee injury report, has blossomed into one of the more talented young pass rushers in the NFL. Landry already has a career-high in sacks this season with 10. Denico Autry is another talented force up front for Tennessee.
It’s absolutely imperative the Patriots’ offensive line limits the big plays from the likes of Simmons, Landry, and Autry. Giving up sacks and strip sacks is an easy way to lose to a team with a ton of injures. The offensive line has been extremely good as of late, but this is a big test.
It’s not all on the offensive line though. Mac Jones and Josh McDaniels also play a role in limiting the impact of the defensive line. Jones must get the ball out quickly when he feels pressure or a blitz coming. There are times the rookie takes unnecessary sacks. As for McDaniels, he’ll need to keep the Titans’ defensive front off balance with creative play-calling, something he did very well against the Browns.
Stay away from Kevin Byard
Kevin Byard is having a truly elite season. Byard is the centerpiece of the Titans secondary. He makes plays all over the field, lining up as a deep safety, box safety, and slot corner. Through 11 games, Byard has 52 combined tackles and 5 interceptions. When Byard is targeted in coverage quarterbacks have a lowly 53.7 passer rating.
Avoiding and/or simply being smart about when to go at Byard, will be key for Jones and the Patriots’ passing offense. His range and coverage ability makes him very dangerous, especially if the rookie quarterback were to let Byard read his eyes and make a play on the football.
Bottom line: Where Byard is at on the field should be a priority for Jones and the offense every single snap. An interception can instantly change the momentum of a game.
Take away the running game and see if Ryan Tannehill can win through the air
As we saw last week in the Titans vs. Texans game, Ryan Tannehill has some trouble when asked to drop back a ton and win a game with his arm.
Without a doubt, Tannehill is a great play-action quarterback. He’s also mobile and can make accurate throws. That said, if there’s no running game to speak of he becomes much easier to defend.
If the Patriots take away the run and force Tannehill to drop back and pass 30-40 times you would have to imagine that bodes well for New England’s chances to win the game.
The defensive game plan against the Titans should be similar to the one Belichick deployed against Cleveland: stop the run and force the quarterback to beat you. It’s also important to note that while the Tennessee offensive line is a good run blocking unit they struggle at times to pass block. The Titans have allowed 31 sacks this season, which is the fourth most in the NFL.
The Titans run game is nowhere near as good as it was with Derrick Henry (obviously) but they still like to pound the football, and as previously mentioned the offensive line is much better when run blocking. Expect D’Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard to get the snaps at running back if Jeremy McNichols can’t go on Sunday.
Win the coaching battle
Bill Belichick is the greatest coach of all time and a top candidate for coach of the year, but Mike Vrabel and his staff are also doing a heck of a job this season.
I’d still give the edge to the Patriots when it pertains to the coaching battle, but Vrabel and company is a formidable foe. When a team is as injured as the Titans are and they continue to win games, that’s a testament to strong coaching. The chess match between each coaching staff will be fascinating to watch come Sunday afternoon.
Patriots win 24-14
The Titans are having a remarkable season and they deserve a ton of respect, but the injuries on offense will limit them against a very strong Patriots defense.
With the New England defense dominating the game, the Jones-led offense will have time to find their footing against a playmaking Tennessee defense. It might be an offensive struggle at times, for both teams, but I believe New England, with some special teams help, pulls out a 24-14 victory.
This article was edited by Luke Ervin.