The Tennessee Titans vs. New England Patriots is the heavyweight battle we deserve. Unfortunately, it comes without Derrick Henry or Julio Jones, but in Week 12 of the NFL season, we must simply take what we can get. The Titans lost last week, but they rattled off six in a row before that, and the Patriots are winners of six of their last seven, as well. Something’s gotta give on Sunday afternoon in Foxborough.
Tennessee Titans offense vs. New England Patriots defense
The Titans’ offense is broken. That’s not some wild concept to wrap your mind around. Losing their star running back in Henry is too much to overcome, especially without a healthy Julio, which we haven’t truly seen since Week 1 of the 2020 season. Henry and play-action have been Tennessee’s identity for years now.
Henry proved it didn’t matter he was made from steel — the constant pounding taken by an NFL running back weakened his armor enough to break it. It turns out that 955 touches in 39 games were enough to take Henry down, much to the chagrin of Titans fans across the land.
Since losing Henry, Tennessee’s passing attack has maintained a high success rate. Still, mental errors from Ryan Tannehill have created a negative EPA even though the Titans have the sixth-highest success rate since Henry went down. Overall, Tennessee ranks 21st in expected points added per play (EPA) over that time, and they rank in the 20s in both rushing EPA and success rate. The offense is a mess.
That makes it a bad time to face New England! The Patriots are fourth in defensive efficiency in 2021, and they rank in the top 10 in passing EPA, rushing EPA, and success rate. DVOA, Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric, has them as the third-best defense in the league.
Ryan Tannehill vs. Patriots defense
After watching Tannehill struggle processing things against *checks notes* the Houston Texans, it’s tough to believe he’ll be mistake-free against a well-coached Patriots secondary that also has a knack for finding the football in the air. Their 18 interceptions are 3 more than anybody else in the NFL.
So, naturally, Tannehill will carve them up to pieces and feed his family the leftovers because the football gods continue to punk us. I’m still waiting for Ashton Kutcher to pop out and tell us this season has all been one big joke.
Titans skill position players vs. Patriots secondary
With no Jones and no Henry, this doesn’t take long to decipher. J.C. Jackson is a bona fide star. Kyle Dugger, Jalen Mills, Devin McCourty, and Adrian Phillips won’t feel pressed by the Titans group in the slightest.
It was a receiving corps that was bone dry behind Jones and A.J. Brown as is. Unfortunately, there was no depth behind Henry either because Darrynton Evans suffered a season-ending injury.
Titans offensive line vs. Patriots defensive front
We finally have some positivity to report for the Titans! Left tackle Taylor Lewan is back to playing well for Tennessee. The rest of the offensive line has more than survived the season. Four of the five starters heading into the New England game are average or above-average starters.
The Patriots’ addition of Matthew Judon has been one of the best signings of the offseason. Nobody quite does NFL talent acquisition like New England.
Christian Barmore has had a lovely rookie campaign, and Deatrich Wise Jr. is one of those quintessential Patriots players that is good but doesn’t get talked about. Top that off with Dont’a Hightower, and the Patriots are strong up front.
New England Patriots offense vs. Tennessee Titans defense
This is where the real battle will be. Since Week 5, few offenses have been more successful than the Patriots. As the health improved on their offensive line, so too did the offensive output.
They’re running and passing the ball successfully. They avoid mistakes, and they score points when their opponents inevitably make errors. That’s always been part of the Patriot way. They let you beat yourself. And so many teams oblige.
Defensively, the Titans have hovered around the top 10 in defensive efficiency. It doesn’t make sense when you look at their defensive construction on paper, but outstanding safety play and the duo of Jeffery Simmons and Harold Landry do a lot to help Tennessee’s defensive efforts.
But that’s not all. Denico Autry has been a menace on the interior alongside Simmons. Cornerback Kristian Fulton has elevated his game to the next level in 2021 as well.
Mac Jones vs. Titans defense
Mac Jones isn’t asked to do much in terms of playmaking in this offense. The Patriots are schematically sound with a screen game that dominates and route concepts that make things easy against man coverage.
Jones will destroy any spot drop zone coverage if you don’t get pressure on him because he processes information incredibly well. It’s tough to fully trust a rookie, but Jones is a different cat above the shoulders.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t like apple pie. And I’m not sure if we can have that kind of attitude on a team nicknamed the Patriots. No way it works out long-term!
All joking aside, I’ve been impressed with Jones, and he’s begun to spread his wings a bit more downfield as his relationship with his receivers continues to grow.
Patriots skill position players vs. Titans secondary
We’ve seen a lot of Patriots advantages thus far, but the tides turn a bit here. New England has a stable of backs the size of Neuschwanstein. I haven’t actually seen the stable that New England keeps their backs in, but I can only imagine it’s around the same square footage.
This happens every year, too. It doesn’t matter who or what type of back comes through New England — they succeed. Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith are both sufficient targets at tight end, and Jakobi Meyers separates well.
Meanwhile, Tennessee’s Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker have been one of the best safety tandems in the league this season. And as previously stated, Fulton is having a career year. Elijah Molden has been solid as a rookie, as well. Chris Jackson isn’t the strongest candidate for the other outside cornerback spot, but the Titans have survived.
Patriots offensive line vs. Titans defensive front
This is my favorite part of the game and why I will dedicate one of my screens to this contest as it’s live. New England’s offensive line is outstanding. Isaiah Wynn, Ted Karras, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and big Trent Brown dominate. They’re the main reason why the Patriots are so successful as an offensive unit.
Simmons was my third-ranked player in the 2019 draft, and he’s lived up to that hype. Landry gets to the QB. He’s fifth in total pressures, and his 11 sacks are tied for the fifth-most in the NFL.
Meanwhile, Simmons has 5 more pressures than any other interior defender. He plays a lot of snaps, but even then, he thrives from an efficiency standpoint.
Autry also works his magic on the interior, making for an actual heavyweight battle in the trenches.
Betting odds and score prediction
The Tennessee Titans vs. New England Patriots game is currently a 6.5-point spread favoring the Patriots in Foxborough. That seems a bit steep given the way Tennesee has battled quality competition this season (beating them all). However, if the Titans are going to win, it’ll have to be by mucking things up defensively.
Tennessee’s offense will probably struggle. But they’ve struggled before and still won big games. I can’t see them taking this one, but I do expect them to cover.
Titans vs. Patriots Prediction: Patriots 23, Titans 20