By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
Note: This is a companion article to “The Many Reasons To Believe Patriots Will Wipe The Floor With Titans,” which you can read here.
BOSTON (CBS) — The Tennessee Titans will be paying a visit to the New England Patriots on Saturday night in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
The Titans don’t have the greatest odds of winning.
The early line from Vegas has the Titans as 13.5-point underdogs against the Patriots, and it feels as if that line might actually grow.
For one, the Titans were just 9-7 this year, going 2-2 against playoff teams and picking up four of those victories against the Browns, Colts and Texans — three teams that went a combined 8-40.
Secondly, the Titans were a weak road team. They won at Jacksonville in Week 2, but their only other road wins came in Cleveland (in overtime) and Indianapolis. Quarterback Marcus Mariota also struggled mightily on the road, throwing five touchdowns and 11 interceptions in seven games played on the road this year. (He threw eight touchdowns and four interceptions in eight home games.)
And historically, teams visiting Foxboro in the divisional round don’t typically find too much success. In Tom Brady’s career, he’s 10-1 as the Patriots’ starter at home in the divisional round. The average score of those 11 games has been 30-19 in favor of the Patriots.
Add in the fact that the Patriots are well-rested and getting healthier as they come off their first-round playoff bye, and clearly the odds are stacked against Tennessee in this game.
But there is one reason why this Titans team should not be counted out entirely: They did just win a playoff game in Kansas City.
Now clearly, the Chiefs fell apart once Travis Kelce left the game with a concussion. And the Titans were saved when what should have been a Mariota fumble was ruled to not have been a fumble, saving the Titans from committing a turnover and instead allowing Tennessee to successfully kick a field goal to get on the scoreboard.
Those things did happen.
Still, a playoff win in Kansas City — the loudest stadium in the world — is nothing to be dismissed. Certainly, it’s been a difficult place to play for the Patriots, who famously lost there on Monday Night Football in Week 4 of the 2014 season, a loss so bad that some professional sports analysts declared the Patriots’ run atop the NFL to have been ended.
The Chiefs may have been exposed on Saturday night as a team that could use some better coaching and may not be built to win Super Bowls, but nevertheless, the Titans no doubt received a major confidence boost from walking into Arrowhead and rallying from a 21-3 deficit to pick up a well-earned postseason victory. That win included a go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, a critical forcing of a turnover on downs in the final minutes, and a 22-yard burst by Derrick Henry to seal the win on the ensuing possession.
Certainly, many calls and bounces and turns of fortune went the Titans’ way on Saturday afternoon. But if luck is on their side again, and if the Patriots play in this year’s divisional round the same uninspired way they played in last year’s divisional round, then the upset is possible. Winning a road playoff game just provides a certain level of confidence for a football team.
And you can bet that they’ll carry that same confidence when they board the plane on Friday and head to Foxboro. It may not be much … but it is something.