Rob Gronkowski was named First Team All-Pro for the fourth time in his career.
The Tennessee Titans make the short trip east to play the Patriots on Saturday night, with a winner just one more game away from Super Bowl 52. The Titans escaped Kansas City with a massive upset win last week, while Patriots coach Bill Belichick made his team come to work in a snowstorm.
The Patriots are a 13.5 point favorite according to OddsShark, with 51 percent of the action backing the Titans. The total is currently set at 48, with 56 percent of betters on the over.
Down 21-3 entering the second half, the Titans didn’t veer away from their game plan against the Chiefs. The key was Derrick Henry, who benefitted from DeMarco Murray sitting out with a knee injury. Henry’s physical style overpowered the Chiefs, and his runs got longer as the game went on. He finished with 156 yards on 23 carries, and Marcus Mariota tossed two scores for the win.
However, that game was going in a completely different direction until Travis Kelce left with a concussion. Without their star tight end, the Chiefs were shut out in the second half.
The Titans can’t bank on injuries this week, but they can bank on Henry. The former Alabama product could be the league’s best back if given the workload, but he’s only effective if he can wear down the opposing defense. It’ll be interesting to see if the disciplined Patriots defense begins to shy away from contact after three quarters of punishment like the Chiefs.
Only one player going down can slow the Patriots offense. Tom Brady rested his injured achilles over the break, and is ready to lead his team to a seventh straight AFC Championship game. Brady once again cleared 4,500 passing yards this season, the fifth time he’s done so in his career. The Titans were 25th in passing defense during the regular season, and were gashed by Alex Smith in the first half last week.
The Patriots backfield has been messy all season, but it mostly appears to be getting healthy for the home stretch. James White and Rex Burkhead are both looking set to return to action, in which case Mike Gillislee would likely be inactive. Patriots running backs combined for 16 rushing touchdowns this season, and all three could be effective in the passing games this week.
If the Titans want any shot in this game, they’ll need to figure out how to stop Rob Gronkowski. Tennessee was scorched by Kelce before his injury last week, and the Titans have been vulnerable to the position all season long. New England should own the short passing game this week, keeping the ball away from Henry and the Titans.
If 13.5 is too many points for you, consider this:
Tell ’em RJ. The Patriots are a massive favorite for a reason. The Titans did well to get this far in the season, but it’s time for the best teams in the league to shine. Brady should carve up the Titans defense, and the Patriots defense should contain Marcus Mariota on the ground.
Heavy’s Pick: Titans 16 Patriots 34. Patriots Cover -13.5 Spread. Over on the Point Total.