Titans vs. Patriots Odds & Picks: How We’re Betting This AFC Wild Card Matchup
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Tom Brady
- Roll with the New England Patriots against the Tennessee Titans in Saturday's NFC Wild Card Game?
- Our staff previews the most important matchups for this AFC showdown, complete with betting odds and picks.
Titans at Patriots Picks, Predictions & Betting Odds
- Odds: Patriots -5.5
- Over/Under: 44.5
- Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. ET
- TV Channel: CBS
Odds as of Friday evening and via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
Public bettors aren’t overwhelmingly on the New England Patriots — only 50% of tickets are backing them to cover the 5.5-point spread against the Tennessee Titans as of Friday evening. But what do our experts think?
They preview Saturday’s AFC Wild Card matchup, featuring analysis of the biggest matchups and a pick.
Titans-Patriots Injury Report
Which team is healthier? Titans
The Titans are almost fully healthy heading into this game. They listed Adam Humphries (ankle) as out, but they’ll welcome cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (foot) back after he missed the past several weeks.
Per usual, the Patriots listed all the players on their injury report as questionable with the exception of offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (ankle), who was the only player to log a full practice. Julian Edelman has been listed as questionable literally every week with knee and/or shoulder injuries but has never been ruled, so I wouldn’t expect that to change heading into the playoffs.
Cornerback Jason McCourty popped up on the report again, which is notable as he also missed Week 17 with his groin injury. Otherwise, in typical Patriot fashion, most players should be suiting up. — Justin Bailey
Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds
- Projected Spread: Patriots -5
- Projected Total: 44
Biggest Mismatch When Patriots Have the Ball
Titans Rush Defense vs. Patriots Rush Offense
The Patriots offense hasn’t looked the same all season, which is directly correlated to a lack of balance. Running backs Sony Michel and James White failed to average more than 3.9 yards per carry, and New England’s rushing efficiency ranked 16th after being in the top 10 in each of the past two seasons.
The backfield ranked 26th in running back yards, and their usually superior offensive line was only 19th in Power Runs and 24th in Stuffed Run Rate (per Football Outsiders). This has put more pressure on the passing game, which has made it easier for defenses to scheme.
The Titans’ run defense has been among the league’s best all season, ranking 10th overall in run defense efficiency. Tennessee has allowed only the 21st-most rushing yards, holding opponents to fewer than four yards per carry.
With Tom Brady finally starting to show his age, the Patriots have needed a strong running game to take pressure off a Rob Gronkowski-less offense. In last season’s Super Bowl championship, Michel totaled 71 attempts, 336 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns over their playoff run. The Patriots rookie back averaged a robust 4.7 yards per carry.
The strength of the Titans’ defense is stopping the run — defensive tackles Jurrell Casey and DaQuan Jones ranked 13th and 15th, respectively, in run defense according to Pro Football Focus — which means the Patriots may need to rely on Brady to once again find his playoff magic. — Mike Randle
Biggest Mismatch When Titans Have the Ball
Patriots Pass Defense vs. Titans Pass Offense
Ryan Tannehill has enjoyed a fantastic season, but the the Patriots’ pass defense played at an all-time level this season.
Even with last week’s hiccup against Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins, the Patriots finished first among all teams in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA. Their pass defense performed an average of 32.2% better than the league-average on each play regardless of opponent.
The key to Tennessee’s offensive explosiveness has been the play of A.J. Brown. The rookie wideout ended the season with three overall WR7 fantasy performances over his final four games. Despite not seeing higher than a 70% snap share until Week 5, Brown ranks sixth at the position in yards after catch and third overall in yards per reception.
Still, Brown will get his toughest matchup of the season against Stephon Gilmore. who graded out as PFF’s fifth-best cornerback (third-best in coverage rating).
The Titans also have limited receiving weapons after Brown. Fellow wideout Corey Davis has experienced a disastrous third season, failing to produce a top-45 overall fantasy WR performance since Week 7. And while tight end Jonnu Smith is a great athlete, he fails to receive consistent opportunity as illustrated by the 31st-best targets at the position.
Per Evan Silva, Tannehill has faced a Bill Belichick defense 11 times and has held him to a 15-to-11 touchdown-to-interception rate and a 4-7 overall record.
The Titans’ passing attack has been a perfect compliment to bruising running back Derrick Henry, but will they find success in their biggest challenge of the season? — Randle
Special Teams Mismatch
Neither special teams unit has been elite this season, although New England has been superior overall. The main issue with each team has been at kicker: Both have gone through a number of kickers this season.
Have the Patriots found their answer in Nick Folk, who closed out the regular season strong? Possibly.
Regardless of whether you believe in Folk, I would much rather have the veteran kicking field goals in potential weather conditions in Foxborough than Greg Joseph, who the Titans claimed off the Panthers’ practice squad late in the season. Joseph has yet to attempt a field goal in two games since joining Tennessee, which means his first field goal attempt of the entire season will come on the road in the postseason in Gillette.
If this game is close throughout, a missed kick could ultimately be the difference. That should scare Titans’ fans. — Stuckey
Chris Raybon: Patriots -5.5
It seems like every season we enter the playoffs with some reason to doubt the Patriots — and maybe we should.
But not yet.
Not in Foxborough, where the Patriots are 10-5 against the spread all-time in Wild Card and Divisional Round matchups with Brady, including 7-1 in their past eight.
Not against Tannehill, who has gone 0-6 as a starter in Foxborough, losing by an average of 22.2 points per game.
And certainly not in Tannehill’s playoff debut, a spot that has led to a dismal 12-31-1 ATS record since 2002 for teams going up against a quarterback with playoff experience.
The Patriots are a flawed team, but they’re equipped to handle the Titans.
Belichick will focus the efforts of a run defense that finished the season ranked sixth in DVOA on stopping Henry. Five of his six 100-yard games came against run defenses ranked 20th or lower, and none came against a unit better than 14th. And when Tannehill goes to the air, the Patriots’ league-best pass defense led by Gilmore should be able to limit rookie sensation Brown, who accounted for 29% of Tannehill’s yardage and 27% of his passing touchdowns over the quarterback’s 10 starts.
And finally, I’m not ready to declare Brady dead yet. There have been more struggles than we’re used to, but it’s not as if he’s suddenly inept. Just two weeks ago, Brady went 26-of-33 for 271 yards and a touchdown with no picks against a Buffalo pass defense ranked fifth in DVOA to put the AFC East in the bag for the Pats.
With the stakes once again raised, I’d expect Brady to be similarly-efficient against a shaky Titans’ pass defense that ranks 21st in DVOA. And in honor of my colleague Stuckey, I’ll also point out that the Patriots have a massive edge on special teams, where they rank third in DVOA to the Titans’ 29th.
According to Simple Rating System, The Patriots’ schedule-adjusted margin of victory this season is 10.4. Even if we don’t adjust the Titans’ 6.6-point average margin of victory in Tannehill’s starts for their easier-than-average schedule or the 21-point beatdown they laid on the Texans team resting its starters in Week 17, this line should be Patriots -6.5 or -7 once you factor in home-field advantage.
I’d bet this up to -6.
Raybon is 191-150-11 (56%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.