The Titans are one game away from the AFC Championship Game. That’s kind of crazy to think about, considering what we’ve been through with this team. However, the Patriots are serving as a massive roadblock to next weekend. Foxboro is where playoff dreams go to die.
The Titans are currently 14 point underdogs. Nobody is giving them a shot, for understandable reasons. If they’re going to pull this thing off, here are five things they are going to have to do.
1. Show up in the 1st quarter.
Seems simple enough, right?
Last week’s comeback was spectacular. It was a big step for this team and something we won’t forget anytime soon. However, Tom Brady isn’t going to disappear like Alex Smith did in the 2nd half at Arrowhead. It’s imperative that the Titans get off to a good start in Foxboro — or at least not dig themselves a hole.
The Titans have had trouble starting all year. That can’t happen in New England. How about a first drive score? That would be something. Maybe, just maybe, Terry Robiskie will start out with the power-spread, no-huddle stuff that worked so well last week. I’m sure we’ll have to sit through the traditional jumbo package drives first though.
2. Solidify the middle of the field defensively.
This is probably my biggest concern in this entire game. Just look at what Travis Kelce did to the Titans in the first half (4-66-1) last week. Tennessee looked lost in the middle of the field, especially in zone looks. You saw the same thing happen in San Fransisco. Dick LeBeau is going to have to make sure this doesn’t happen this week with Rob Gronkowski lining up on the other side. There’s no perfect way to take Gronk away, but they can’t let him run wild like Kelce started to do last week.
3. Receivers, be where you’re supposed to be.
There’s a lot to be frustrated with in regards to the offense. This one takes the cake for me. It dates back to last year, even. Maybe I’m too close to the situation, but I don’t see this issue coming from other NFL teams on a weekly basis.
It seems like three or four times a game now, we see two receivers end up in the same place on the field. Plays aren’t designed to go like this and it makes things impossible on Marcus Mariota.
Just about every Mariota interception this year has a backstory to it and it usually ends with a receiver ending up in the wrong area. Just last week where we saw Corey Davis mess up a route concept with a stutter-step and cause a turnover. It happens multiple times a game and it’s yet to be cleaned up by the players or the staff. These are the mistakes that can’t happen if the Titans want to pull the upset.
4. Get six, not three.
After ranking 1st in the NFL in redzone offense last year, the Titans are just 19th this year. Things have been really messy of late near the goal-line, as you saw last week when it took Mariota throwing and catching his own touchdown. Tennessee ranks 3rd in field goals attempted and 21st in extra points attempted. That goes hand in hand with the Titans’ 25th ranked 3rd down offense.
Field goals don’t win football games, especially against Tom Brady.
5. Score 30 points.
The previous point leads right into this point. As I just said, field goals aren’t winning this football game. The Titans are going to have to be able to punch it past the goal-line on Saturday night.
You know Tom Brady is going to get his. He’s going to beat just about any defense eventually, so I’m not going write about how the Titans have to stop him. That would be nice, but it’s probably not going to happen. What the Titans can do (I believe) is score some points. 30 is a lofty goal, but I think that’s what it’s going to take.
Tennessee has scored 30 points exactly twice all year, but if you’re going to beat the best, you better bring your best effort. Here’s a really good look at some advanced stats that highlight some weaknesses for the Patriots.
Admittedly, I don’t feel good about this one. But it does feel like the Titans are playing with house money here. Maybe that will loosen them up heading into Saturday night. I just want another shot at seeing ‘Playoff Mariota’ operate with the game on the line, to be honest.