The New England Patriots will have their hands full when the Tennessee Titans come into Gillette Stadium this weekend. Here are some main points to be watching for this weekend in their AFC Divisional round game.
The Titans’ run game
Coming off an impressive come from behind win against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Titans come into Foxborough with one objective in mind: run the ball down the throat of the defense. With running back Derrick Henry expected to start, the Patriots defense needs a game plan on how to stop him.
Although the defense has improved, they are still ranked 20th in the league against the run. With Henry’s impressive 156 yards on 23 carries on Saturday, the front seven’s focus will primarily be not to let the run game get going. With players coming back from injuries and the addition of linebacker James Harrison, the defense’s chance of setting the tone early is very high.
As the defense has their work cut out for them, the Patriots’ offense has some work to do. Coming off a bye and the media storm looming over the Patriots’ locker, there is a chance that the offense isn’t as sharp as they need to be. Coming off one of his best regular seasons, Brady will have to lead the offense and have them ready to go against a strong Titans defense.
Going up against the 13th ranked defense in the league will be no easy task. The Titan’s front seven was able to get five hits on quarterback Alex Smith and four sacks, which disrupted the Chiefs’ game plan. Protecting Brady needs to be the biggest priority for the offense.
Unleash the Gronk
Tight end Travis Kelce is arguably the second-best tight end in the league only after Rob Gronkowski. It was 14-3 Chiefs when Kelce left the game after a brutal helmet to helmet hit. He was ultimately ruled out for the second half and the Titans’ took over from there, scoring 19 unanswered points. Many may attribute the Chiefs’ inability to score to the Titans’ defense but one thing is clear, the offense was different without Kelce.
Gronkowski is a matchup nightmare for any defense to prepare for. With 1,084 yards on 69 receptions with eight touchdowns to his name during the regular season, Gronkowski has the ability to have the biggest impact this postseason (aside from Brady). A healthy Gronkowski in the postseason is what all Patriots fans dream of. After averaging 68 yards and 3 touchdowns in the 2014 postseason, Gronkowski proved he was an integral part of the Patriots’ postseason success.