Take 5: Matchups that will determine Patriots-Titans

Take 5: Matchups that will determine Patriots-Titans

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After days spent issuing joint statements and then he and Tom Brady making the rounds doing radio interviews to discredit and deny the contents of the January 5 story from ESPN detailing the supposed "internal power struggle in New England", Belichick declared he and his team were "all in" preparing for the Titans.

Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots huddles with teammates during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium on December 20, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Listen, I think we all know that this game is probably not going to go well for the road team. Nothing really should get in the way of that.

The Tennessee Titans are coming off an excellent comeback in the Wild Card Round.

The top-seeded Patriots (13-3 SU, 11-5 ATS) won't ever admit so publicly, but they are thrilled to face the Titans instead of the high-powered Chiefs, who opened the 2017 season with a shocking 42-27 upset victory at Gillette Stadium.

"Nobody respects us. Nobody really expects a lot from us". "We haven't been a very successful team in the last 10 years". We rarely see this team overconfident and overlooking a weaker opponent.

Now the stakes get higher for the inexperienced Titans, but that doesn't mean they don't have personnel that can cause some problems. Brady's uncharacteristic unevenness down the stretch, coupled with the revelation tucked in an ESPN blockbuster on tensions within the Patriots that his own coaches have seen "slippage" in Brady this season, has prompted the latest round of questions about whether age has finally started to leech Brady's brilliance. This is the first for Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota.


"When it comes down to it, it's all about us", Mariota said.

I talked to current Titans radio analyst Dave McGinnis this week about the game.

MOVING ON UP: It will be Bill Belichick's 37th career playoff game as a head coach, breaking a tie with Tom Landry and Don Shula for the most in National Football League history. Also, James White and Dion Lewis (5 yards per carry) are extremely risky, not just catching the football, but running it as well. In receiving, Delanie Walker posted 74 yards while Henry added 35. With Murray injured, Henry was the workhorse against the Chiefs and will have to carry the load again in Foxborough since Murray has been ruled out. The Titans missed some big plays last week by failing to secure the football. Linebackers Brian Orakpo (seven) and Wesley Woodyard (five) give the Titans a variety of options to attack Brady, not counting backup linebacker Erik Walden (four). Mariota will control much of the New England Defense's attention.

The Patriots run defense has struggled for most of the season. The Titans can go in and play as free as they want. Why? Taylor Lewan and company will need to keep an eye on Harrison to ensure he does not make any key plays that could hurt the Titans chances of winning. LeBeau also has an NFL-record 45 consecutive seasons as a coach, putting ahead of only one man - Belichick with 43 - in that category.

The frozen home crowd of 68,000 exhaled icicles and the Patriots went on to win their second Super Bowl in three years.

The respect between the two is mutual.

But it was here that Tennessee coach Mike Mularkey got creative.

"I have a great relationship with both Robert [Kraft, the Patriots owner] and Tom, and I would throw in there, since it was part of the article, I feel like I have a good relationship with Alex, too", Belichick told WEEI radio in his weekly interview on Monday. Dick LeBeau's defenses have done a good job against the run throughout his Hall of Fame career.

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