On Saturday, the New England Patriots will finally enter the playoffs when they host the Tennessee Titans in the two teams’ divisional round matchup. The Patriots are the heavy favorites to win and advance to the AFC title game - and why would they not be? They play at home as the conference’s number one seed and are also the defending world champions.
Above all that, New England also brings a lot more playoff experience to the table. Overall, 41 of the 53 players on the team’s active roster have played in a postseason matchup before. Those 41 players combine for 317 total games and about 100 Super Bowl rings. For comparison, Tennessee entered the tournament with 18 playoff veterans combining for 82 contests.
One week later, though, each member of the Titans has breathed postseason air - a feeling 12 members of the Patriots have yet to experience (although one of the 12 was with the team for the last two playoff runs, he simply was never active on game day). Let’s take a look at who they are:
RB Mike Gillislee
Mike Gillislee started his career with the Miami Dolphins in 2013 before joining the Buffalo Bills a year later. With the Bills still in the middle of their playoff drought back then, Gillislee never made the postseason in his two years in western New York. He joined the Patriots this season - but it would not be a surprise to see him inactive on Saturday as he is dealing with a knee injury.
WR Kenny Britt
Despite being in the ninth year of his NFL career, Kenny Britt has yet to appear in a playoff game. The reason for that is pretty simple: He started his career with three struggling teams at the time. After getting drafted by the Tennessee Titans (2009-2013), Britt played for the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams (2014-2016) and the Cleveland Browns (early 2017). Now, he will make his playoff debut against one of his former teams.
WR Brandin Cooks
Even though he caught passes from New Orleans Saints quarterback and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees through the first three years of his NFL career, Brandin Cooks has never played in a postseason contest. He joined New Orleans at a time when the team was struggling to stay under the salary cap and field a potent defense; he left when the team was gearing up for a playoff appearance. Luckily for Cooks, he was traded to a team that was doing just the same.
WR Phillip Dorsett
Just like Brandin Cooks, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett entered the NFL at an inopportune time: He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, who were just coming off an AFC title game appearance, in 2015 - right before quarterback Andrew Luck’s injuries started to pile up. Consequently, Dorsett missed the playoffs in his two years with the Colts.
OT LaAdrian Waddle
LaAdrian Waddle joined the Patriots during the 2015 regular season. Since then, the team has played five postseason games but Waddle was inactive for each one of them. But while the 26-year old lost his starting spot to Cameron Fleming over the course of the season, he will likely be active for his first ever playoff game this weekend.
DE Eric Lee
Eric Lee was part of a playoff team before: He spent the entirety of his 2016 rookie campaign with the Houston Texans, who ultimately lost in the divisional round to the Patriots. However, Lee played in neither of his team’s two postseason games as he was on Houston’s practice squad at the time. On Saturday, the 23-year old will likely see his first postseason action.
LB Nicholas Grigsby
Like Eric Lee, Nicholas Grigsby is in his second NFL season. But unlike his fellow defender, the linebacker and special teamer was never part of a playoff-bound team as he started his professional career on the 4-12 Los Angeles Rams. After a stint with the Baltimore Ravens, Lee found a home in New England.
CB Stephon Gilmore
A first round pick by the Buffalo Bills in 2012, Stephon Gilmore spent the first five years of his career with the Patriots’ divisional rivals. While he did find some individual success and was Pro Bowler in 2016, the 27-year old never played in a postseason contest before. All that will change against the Titans, when he will start as one of New England’s perimeter cornerbacks.
TE Jacob Hollister, OT Cole Croston, DT Adam Butler, DE Deatrich Wise Jr.
The four rookies on the Patriots’ active roster have naturally not yet played in an NFL postseason game. While Jacob Hollister, Adam Butler and Deatrich Wise Jr. are relatively safe bets to suit up against the Titans, Cole Croston will likely be a game-day inactive on Saturday.