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Patriots To Reach Seventh-Straight AFC Championship

January 12, 2018

The defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots, resume their quest for back-to-back crowns when they face off against the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round.

Tennessee produced a fine performance on the road last week to knock off the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs held a 21-3 lead at the break, but Mike Mularkey’s men rallied back to pull off the upset.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota had a fine performance, pulling off the rare feat of throwing a touchdown to himself. Darrelle Revis should have picked off his pass, but batted the ball back to the 24-year-old to notch the score.

Derrick Henry iced the game with solid running down the stretch. The Titans’ defense benefited from Travis Kelce’s absence from a concussion in the second half to shut down the Chiefs’ offense.

Life will become harder for Mularkey’s men in their trip to Foxborough to take on the Patriots. On their last visit in 2015 they were hammered, with the club not boasting a good record against Tom Brady and company.

New England were rocked during their bye week by a report from ESPN, suggesting that there is friction in the organisation. The article alleged that there is a rift between Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, with owner Robert Kraft also involved in the feud.

The Patriots have denied the accusations throughout the week, with Belichick in his typical belligerent mood brushing off the speculation. After their early-season troubles, New England have been on song for the majority of their campaign. Their one blemish late in the year came against the Miami Dolphins on the road.

Belichick’s men relatively healthy at this stage of the campaign and are looking to reach the AFC Championship game for the seventh year on the bounce. We’ll now break down the contest using the latest betting odds.

New England Patriots

Brady is eyeing another Super Bowl

The Patriots have often come under the media spotlight. Therefore the report from ESPN should not provide enough of a distraction for the club to lose focus. Brady has often played his best in the aftermath of scandals, with his performances after the Spygate and Deflategate incidents as testament to that fact. The 40-year-old has been suffering from a shoulder and Achilles’ problem that resulted in a drop off in his play late in the term.

However, after two weeks of recuperation he should be fit and firing. Brady and Rob Gronkowski were named in the All-Pro team, with the duo dominating throughout the campaign. Gronkowski has been outstanding and will be in line for a big performance after missing the playoff run last season due to injury. Running back Dion Lewis was arguably the Patriots’ best player down the stretch, recording two 100-yard games in his last six matches. Without the injured Julian Edelman, Brady will need Gronkowski and Lewis at the peak of their powers with the game on the line.

New England’s defense has bounced back from a rough start to the season. Their improvement has been noted so much so that defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is reportedly on the verge of being named the New York Giants head coach. Patricia will be with the Patriots until they are eliminated and they will need his full attention.

They’ve had issues against the run and mobile quarterbacks in the past. Against Mariota and Henry the hosts will have to be disciplined. Trey Flowers was a standout in the pass-rush in the Super Bowl and he will lead the assault. The secondary will be looked upon to be lockdown with Malcolm Butler, Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty all savvy veterans.

Tennessee Titans

Mariota needs another special outing

The Titans produced the performance of the Wildcard Round to knock the Chiefs out of the playoffs. Mularkey’s men were put on the back foot by Kansas City’s onslaught in the first quarter, and were trailing by 18 points at the break. However, Mariota led a second-half comeback, starting with his bizarre receiving touchdown. Eric Decker and Derrick Henry also found the endzone to edge them into a one-point lead. The defense then did their part to hold Alex Smith and company at bay to secure the road victory.

It was Tennessee’s first triumph in the post-season since the 2003 season. Coincidentally that campaign ended with a defeat to the Patriots in the Divisional Round. Mularkey’s men cannot afford to dwell on that fact or the imperious nature of New England’s dynasty. Only two teams have beaten the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the Belichick era. The last of which came in 2012 when the Baltimore Ravens triumphed in the AFC Championship game.

Mariota is going to need another outstanding performance – not just in the passing game, but also running out of the pocket to keep the defense off balance. The 24-year-old cannot afford to make mistakes and needs to continue to make decisive throws like his strike to Decker. Henry’s running will also be crucial. The Titans will be without DeMarco Murray so the back will once again need to carry the fortunes. He rushed for 156 yards against the Chiefs and will need to do the same to capitalise on the Patriots’ vulnerable run defense.

Defensively, Brian Orakpo, Jurell Casey and Derrick Morgan need to be outstanding. They provided pressure on Smith, but will need to be operating at an elite level to stop Brady on Saturday.

Betting Options

Fortress Foxborough has been the graveyard of many teams’ playoff hopes. Only the Ravens seemed to have the measure of the Patriots on home soil. In their two victories and close defeat in the 2014 Divisional Round, they were able to dominate the line of scrimmage. Joe Flacco was able to make excellent throws to dissect the defense. The Titans need to follow that blueprint and produce flawless execution to have a chance to causing another upset.

New England were exposed by the Kansas City Chiefs’ running game in their opener. Henry has to shine to limit Brady’s time on the field and rack up the yards on the ground. However, the 40-year-old should be able to have his way with the Titans’ secondary, using Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan to great effect. Expect New England to ease to victory at odds of 3/25  with BetOnline. Belichick’s men are backed at a massive -13.5 spread, which is a lot of points for a playoff game. Therefore take the Titans to on +13.5 with Betway at odds of 13/15 .

The Patriots’ defense has been solid and has restricted the majority of their opponents to under 17 points. Take the under on the Titans to score 17.5 points at odds of 9/10  with BetVictor. James White was the hero of the Super Bowl for the Patriots last season. He has missed the last two matches due to injury, but expect him to be in the thick of the action. Take him at odds of 3/1  with Betway to score anytime on Saturday.

Tips Summary

New England Patriots To Beat Tennessee Titans
Saturday 13th January 2018 20:15 ET (Sunday 14th January 2018 01:15 GMT)
Odds: 3/25

Take +13.5 Spread Tennessee Titans
Saturday 13th January 2018 20:15 ET (Sunday 14th January 2018 01:15 GMT)
Odds: 13/15

Tennessee Titans To Score Under 17.5 Points
Saturday 13th January 2018 20:15 ET (Sunday 14th January 2018 01:15 GMT)
Odds: 9/10

James White To Score Touchdown Anytime
Saturday 13th January 2018 20:15 ET (Sunday 14th January 2018 01:15 GMT)
Odds: 3/1

  • Marcus Mariota
  • New England Patriots
  • NFL
  • Tennessee Titans
  • Tom Brady

    About the author

    Eric Roberts
    Eric Roberts

    Sports Journalist

    Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.