The New England Patriots are the hottest team in the NFL right now, heading into Week 12 on a five-game winning streak — the longest in the league. However, the team will have to bring its A-game in order to keep it alive: the Tennessee Titans are one of the best teams in football themselves, and at 8-3 own the current top playoff seed in the AFC.
Needless to say that the game could have some major playoff implications for both teams.
They are entering it in different positions, though. While New England celebrated a 25-0 win in Atlanta last Thursday, the Titans are coming off an upset loss to the Houston Texans. In turn, the oddsmakers have put their trust in the Patriots: playing at home, Bill Belichick’s team is favored by 6.5, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
With all that being said, let’s take a closer look at the Patriots’ Week 12 opponent.
Points scored: 26.5/game (10th)
Yards gained: 354.1/game (15th)
Passing offense: 247-for-371, 2,476 yards, 14 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 0.097 EPA (16th), 4.1% DVOA (22nd)
Rushing offense: 340 carries, 1,419 yards, 16 touchdowns, -0.044 EPA (8th), -6.5% DVOA (15th)
Tennessee’s offense has had an up-and-down season so far, despite the team ranking 10th in the league in scoring. Turnovers in particular have been an issue — the unit has so far given the ball away a total of 17 times — while Tennessee has been more effective running the football than passing it.
Points against: 23.1/game (19th)
Yards given up: 350.5/game (14th)
Passing defense: 265-for-424, 2,786 yards, 18 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 0.048 EPA (13th), 3.5% DVOA (13th)
Rushing defense: 261 carries, 1,069 yards, 11 touchdowns, -0.072 EPA (18th), -9.1% DVOA (18th)
Tennessee fields a talented defense at all three levels, but it has also had its ups and downs so far this season — although the high quality of the opponents cannot be left out of the equation. For one, the unit has already given up 29 touchdowns which has led to the 19th rank in the scoring category. Furthermore, the Titans are only 20th in pass rush pressure rate
Week 1 vs. Arizona Cardinals: L 38-13
Week 2 at Seattle Seahawks: W 33-30 (OT)
Week 3 vs. Indianapolis Colts: W 25-16
Week 4 at New York Jets: L 27-24 (OT)
Week 5 at Jacksonville Jaguars: W 37-19
Week 6 vs. Buffalo Bills: W 34-31
Week 7 vs. Kansas City Chiefs: W 27-3
Week 8 at Indianapolis Colts: W 34-31 (OT)
Week 9 at Los Angeles Rams: W 28-16
Week 10 vs. New Orleans Saints: W 23-21
Week 11 vs. Houston Texans: L 22-13
The Titans have had an interesting season so far. Not only did they play three overtime games and accomplish the longest winning streak in the league at six straight victories, they also beat some of the best teams in football: Tennessee won twice against the Colts, beat the Bills and Rams, and also steam-rolled the Chiefs.
Two of the team’s three losses, meanwhile, came against some of the worst opponents in football. The Titans lost to the Jets in overtime, and last week was beaten by the Texans in a turnover-filled performance.
QB Ryan Tannehill; RB Dontrell Hilliard; WR A.J. Brown, WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine; TE Geoff Swaim, TE MyCole Pruitt; LT Taylor Lewan, LG Roger Saffold, C Ben Jones, RG Aaron Brewer, RT David Quessenberry
Tennessee’s offense still features plenty of potential, but it will go up against the Patriots without some of its most talented players. Reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year Derrick Henry will be out, as will be wide receiver Julio Jones. Replacing Henry in particular will be a challenge against a resurgent New England run defense.
DT Jeffery Simmons, DT Teair Tart, DE Denico Autry, OLB Harold Landry; LB Rashaan Evans, LB David Long Jr; CB Kristian Fulton, CB Janoris Jenkins, CB Chris Jackson; S Amani Hooker, S Kevin Byard
The Titans feature impressive talent on all three levels of the defense. Up front, Jeffery Simmons and Harold Landry have been a disruptive duo, registering a combined 17.5 sacks so far this year. The second level will possibly welcome former first-round draft pick Rashaan Evans back from his stint on injured reserve. The secondary, meanwhile, is led by All-Pro safety Kevin Byard.
K Randy Bullock, P Brett Kern, LS Morgan Cox; KR/PR Chester Rogers
The Titans’ special teas unit is an experienced one, even with Randy Bullock only arriving in Tennessee earlier this year. He already has 117 NFL games on his résumé, though. That said, his fellow specialists Brett Kern and Morgan Cox have him beat in this department: while Cox has played 183 games, Kern has appeared in 219.
QB Ryan Tannehill: Tennessee’s quarterback has had his ups and downs this season. While he is completing two thirds of his pass attempts — 245 of 368 — and has thrown 13 touchdowns already, he also has turned the football over on 15 occasions: Tannehill has thrown 12 interceptions and also lost three of his six fumbles. That said, he remains a challenging QB to defend due to his ability to make plays with his legs as well as his right arm.
RB Dontrell Hilliard: With Derrick Henry out and wide receiver A.J. Brown’s status also up in the air, running back Dontrell Hilliard might be asked to play a big role on Sunday. The fourth-year man, who only joined the Titans last month and was officially added to the 53-man roster off the practice squad earlier this week, already played 63 percent of Tennessee’s offensive snaps last week. He touched the football a team-high 15 times for a combined 82 yards.
DT Jeffery Simmons: While Harold Landry is the Titans’ leader in sacks, Jeffery Simmons might be the team’s best front seven defender. The former first-round draft pick has registered 7.5 takedowns of his own, and is a force versus the run as well. Simmons has the potential to be a game-wrecker, regardless of where he lines up along the Tennessee defensive line.
S Kevin Byard: A two-time All-Pro selection, Byard continues to play some high quality football in his sixth season in the league. Not only has he picked off a team-leading five passes so far this season, he also has registered one forced fumble and one recovery. Furthermore, he has found the end zone twice: Byard returned his fumble recovery 30 yards for a score in Week 5 against Jacksonville, and later added a 24-yard pick-six versus the Rams in Week 9.
Head coach: Mike Vrabel
Coordinators: Todd Downing (offense), Shane Bowen (defense), Craig Aukerman (special teams)
Now in his fourth year at the job, former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel is one of the most successful coaches in the league. Since taking over, he has led Tennessee to three straight winning seasons — he will likely make it 4-for-4 this year — as well as a 39-24 record. Vrabel also led his team to its first AFC South title in 13 years; the team went 11-5 last season to claim its division.
The Patriots and the Titans have met 11 times so far, with three of the meetings coming in the postseason:
- Patriots: 8 wins (including 2 playoff wins)
- Titans: 3 wins (including 1 playoff win)
Since moving to Nashville — the organization originally started operating as the Houston Oilers between 1960 and 1996 — the Titans have played the Patriots a total of 11 times, with the overall statistic working in New England’s favor. That said, Mike Vrabel’s team has won back-to-back games versus the Patriots: Tennessee won 34-10 in 2018, followed by a 20-13 victory during the playoffs the following year.
New England still has won its fair share of memorable games against the Titans. The Patriots beat the club in the playoffs during the 2003 and 2017 seasons, and it also celebrated a victory in one of the most lopsided games in league history: New England blew out the Jeff Fisher-led Tennessee squad 59-0 in 2009.