DP - Titans at Patriots
January 12, 2018
By Kevin Rogers
To check out this game from a totals perspective, read up on Saturday's edition of "Total Talk" by clicking here.
For the eighth consecutive season, the Patriots are playing with an extra week of rest in the playoffs. New England has won in the last six instances in the divisional round of the postseason, as the Patriots look to extend that streak on Saturday night against the Titans. Tennessee was ready for the offseason in the Wild Card round, but pulled off an incredible comeback to knock out Kansas City.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
The Titans (10-7 SU, 9-7-1 ATS) finished as the fifth seed in the AFC after sneaking past the Jaguars in Week 17 to clinch their first playoff berth since 2008. Tennessee wasn’t expected to do much once it stepped foot in the postseason at Arrowhead Stadium last Saturday as 8 ½-point underdogs. Things went to script early on as the Titans fell behind 14-0 after one quarter and 21-3 at halftime.
However, the Tennessee defense stiffened up by not allowing Kansas City to register a single point in the second half, while quarterback Marcus Mariota led the Titans to 19 unanswered points and an improbable 22-21 victory. The rally started when Mariota’s pass to the end zone down 21-3 in the third quarter deflected into the Heisman Trophy winner’s hands and he scooted for a score from six yards out. Mariota finished with 205 yards passing and two touchdown throws, while running back Derrick Henry picked up 156 yards on 23 carries to go along with a 35-yard touchdown.
The Patriots (13-3 SU, 11-5 ATS) eclipsed the 12-win plateau for the eighth straight season, while picking up their ninth consecutive AFC East title. Following a 2-2 start in which New England allowed a whopping 32 points per game, the defense tightened up by not allowing more than 17 points in any of the next eight games, all victories. The only loss in the final 12 weeks came at Miami as 10 ½-point favorites in a 27-20 defeat in Week 14.
The season-changing victory for Bill Belichick’s squad came in the controversial finish at Pittsburgh in Week 15. New England overcame a late eight-point deficit in a 27-24 triumph, while receiving good fortune on an overturned Steelers’ touchdown in the final minute. The end result was New England eventually clinching home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs as the Patriots own a 17-3 SU and 11-8-1 ATS record at Gillette Stadium in the postseason with Tom Brady under center.
The Patriots began the campaign owning a 2-4 ATS record, but New England ran off an incredible 9-1 ATS run in the final 10 games. Five of those covers came at Gillette Stadium, including a perfect 3-0 ATS record as a double-digit home favorite. In the divisional round, the Patriots have compiled a 10-1 SU and 6-4-1 ATS at home since 2001, while putting together a 2-2 ATS mark in its last four opportunities as a nine-point favorite or higher in this round.
The Titans have been up and down all season against the number, starting 3-6-1 ATS, but are currently on a 6-1 ATS run, including four straight covers. Tennessee owns a solid 3-1 ATS record as an underdog with the only loss coming at Pittsburgh in Week 11, while covering in six of the past nine opportunities when receiving points since October 2016.
New England has won each of the past six meetings with Tennessee, while the only playoff matchup came in the 2003 divisional playoffs. The Patriots knocked off the Titans, 17-14 en route to New England’s second Super Bowl title when they edged the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII, 32-29.
In the last meeting in 2015, the Patriots ripped the Titans, 33-16 to cash as 14 ½-point favorites in Foxboro. New England built a 24-3 halftime advantage thanks to a pair of Brady touchdown passes, while Mariota left the game in the second quarter due to injury. The last time the Tennessee franchise won at New England came back in 1993 when it was known as the Houston Oilers, routing New England, 28-14.
The Patriots have won seven of their last eight postseason contests, while covering six times in this span. New England has cashed the OVER seven times, including all three times in its run to the Super Bowl title last season, while scoring 34, 36, and 34 points in those contests. Since losing to the Jets in the 2010 divisional playoffs, the Patriots have won nine of their past 10 postseason games at Gillette Stadium, as New England cashed seven times in this stretch.
The Titans won their first playoff game since defeating the Ravens in 2003, while cashing the UNDER in four consecutive postseason contests. Tennessee is seeking its first AFC championship appearance since 2002, when the Titans were blown out by the Raiders, 41-24. The Titans received a first round bye that season, as they last won multiple playoff games in the same season back in 1999, when they reached Super Bowl XXXIV against the Rams.
VegasInsider.com handicapper Joe Nelson provides a small case for backing the road team, “The Titans do have a few strengths that could provide an opportunity for the heavy underdog. Tennessee has the best per carry run defense of any team left in the NFL playoffs surrendering just 3.6 yards per carry. Tennessee posted 202 yards on 6.5 yards per carry vs. the Chiefs behind Derrick Henry and Marcus Mariota and New England has the worst run defense in the playoffs allowing 4.7 yards per carry on the season.”
However, Nelson points out that backing New England still has its advantages, “New England scored nearly 29 points per game this season and has significant edges in most other areas in this matchup including being 184 points better in net scoring differential and posting an advantage of 10 in net turnovers between these teams. All those edges come before even considering the playoff experience and track record of the teams and coaching staffs with the Patriots obviously the top franchise in the league the better part of the last two decades.”
Scott Cooley of BookMaker.eu weighs in on where the money is going in Foxboro, “This may end up being the game with the lowest handle. Public seems a bit hesitant to lay the big spread, although some still are, but the minimal sharp interest has been on Tennessee. We’re fairly split as far as handle with 55 percent of the money on New England. As far as the total, we have 63 percent on the over.”
You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at email@example.com
Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.
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