Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Sport | By Wilson Duncan

Tennessee vs. New England, Jacksonville vs. Pittsburgh-It's on in the AFC!

Tennessee vs. New England, Jacksonville vs. Pittsburgh-It's on in the AFC!

And that means no one inside the football offices or locker room at Gillette Stadium will be taking the Titans lightly. If they don't get to him, at least bring the heat to his doorstep.

Though both players now are in unfamiliar territory, they said the win-or-go-home stakes haven't altered their preparation for Saturday.

"I can't believe what I just saw", a Titans announcer said.

Roethlisberger is terrific at keeping his options open, and so is Brees.

Mariota's legs figure to play a bigger role in Saturday's matchup than normal as the Patriots have had struggles with mobile QBs. The Titans haven't won at New England since 1993 and have covered just one of their past five there. All eight of them are good teams.

Maybe "turmoil" is too strong a word to describe the Patriots' situation in the wake of that piece by ESPN, which claimed disharmony at best-outright antipathy at worst-between Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the quarterback's controversial fitness guru Alex Guerrero.

The Titans' running game sputtered throughout much of the 2017 season, but they may have found a recipe for success in Saturday's win over the Chiefs.

Yet this is still a significant moment in his National Football League story. He was used more as a rotational player at the start of the season. He doesn't throw with great accuracy, and he won't blow you away with passing yardage, but he will fight and scrap.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski - who is healthy and ready to roll in the postseason after missing the Super Bowl run a year ago following back surgery - sees it a bit differently. And it caught the attention of the Patriots. "In 18 years, I've never celebrated when someone has been traded, been cut", Brady said on his weekly appearance on Boston radio station WEEI. It's when he's on the move, with a multitude of threats to potentially exploit, when he is at his most deadly.

Normally the Patriots do a good job working against bigger backs, especially ones who like to make their living between the tackles. "But when he escapes outside the pocket and he has the ability to run and throw, you honestly really don't have a shot to stop him". "So, we've played quarterbacks like this where we do want to try to keep him in the pocket, but I think that's just the beginning part of it".

Derrick Henry gets stronger the more he carries the ball, and it looks like he's going to be carrying it a lot for the Titans going forward.

In trying to limit their own mistakes, the Patriots excel at forcing opponents into miscues of their own, especially at home.

DeMarco Murray already has been declared out for a third straight game for Tennessee, leaving the backfield to Henry. But they'll need more.

The former Heisman Trophy victor has starred in the running game for Tennessee in recent weeks with DeMarco Murray sidelined with a knee injury. Defensively the Titans ranked No. 13 in total defense, 4th against the run and 25 in pass defense.

There's an element of, "Well he would say that" to Belichick's words. Who knows? I might be totally wrong. "You've got to go out there and make the plays". But dig a little deeper and you'll see that there are enough playmakers on this side of the ball to cause problems for Brady and Co.

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