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Patriots vs. Titans predictions: Will the New England defense squash another opponent?

Related: Patriots vs. Titans preview: Get to meet New England’s Week 12 opponent

New England Patriots Vs. Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The New England Patriots defense has played some impressive football as of late, and is entering Week 12 as the top-ranked unit in terms of points given up. On average, opponents are scoring only 16.1 points against the team — a number that drops to 14.8 when two Mac Jones pick-sixes are left out of the equation.

The group has started to come together, and after giving up only 13 total points in its last three games combined is bringing plenty of momentum into this week’s matchup with the Tennessee Titans. The question is whether or not New England’s D will keep playing its impressive brand of football, and thus squash another opponent.

Using our crystal ball as well as the numbers provided by DraftKings Sportsbook let’s find out what to expect on Sunday.

Tennessee Titans: O/U 17.5 points

The Titans scored only 13 points during their upset loss to the Houston Texans last week, but that game was very much an aberration. Head coach Mike Vrabel’s team turned the ball over five times, thus ending its nine-game streak of scoring at least 23 points.

Heading into this week’s game, the challenge will not be an easier one. Not only are the Patriots the top-ranked defense in football, Tennessee will also miss some key members of its offense: running back Derrick Henry and wide receiver Julio Jones will both be out, while wideout A.J. Brown and running back Jeremy McNichols did not participate in practice on Wednesday due to chest and concussion issues, respectively.

If Brown and McNichols are unable to play, the Titans will have to operate without their top four weapons this season in terms of yards gained from scrimmage. The matchup against a New England defense that has looked strong against both the pass and the run recently will therefore be a difficult one.

Tennessee does have wide receiver Golden Tate waiting on the practice squad, and a solid group of tight ends waiting to pick up the slack, but the Titans — including first-year offensive coordinator Todd Downing — need to bring their A-game. Will they be able to do it and thus put pressure on the Patriots defense? It will certainly not be easy, even in the unlikely case that Brown and McNichols return to the lineup at full strength.

That being said, last week’s game versus the Texans is not reflective of the unit’s capabilities. Four turnovers — including three inside the Houston 30-yard line — were out of character for Tennessee, something Bill Belichick also pointed out earlier this week.

“They turned the ball over against the Texans, so that’s hard to count on. That’s not what they do. I don’t think we’ll get that,” New England’s head coach said.

Add the fact that the Titans defense is also capable of generating takeaways of its own — it had at least one turnover in all but three games this year, the same number as the Patriots offense — and the team scoring at least 18 points appears to be very possible. That is especially true if Brown and McNichols are back.

With neither of the two expected to be at full strength on Sunday, however, and with the Patriots defense close to full health, Tennessee making it over the 17.5-point line will not be easy.

Prediction: Under