STAR PREVIEW Sun: Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots

ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.


Two sides heading in different directions at the moment and two sides with their rosters in very different shape when looking at the health aspect of them. The Patriots are for the most part in good shape whilst the Titans have over the past few weeks been ripped apart by injuries especially at the skill positions.

The biggest loss for Tennessee came via the loss of elite running back Derrick Henry who was at the very heart of much of their offensive playbook. Add to that another running back, two top wide receivers and possibly a starting tight end missing in action and you have a scenario where you don’t want to be facing a Patriots defence that has allowed just 50 points in the last five games: that New England defence the catalyst to their success and renaissance of late. The Patriots have allowed zero points on their past 19 opponent drives (nine sacks, five interceptions and 3-for-21 on opponent third-down conversions).

Another key for New England that has allowed their offence to thrive (often on a short field) has been the fact that the defence has 18 interceptions, the most in the NFL, and has forced 13 turnovers during its five-game win streak. The Titans enter Foxboro off a loss to the hapless Texans in a game where they turned the ball over on five occasions.

Trying to beat this Patriots defence with what amounts to a second-string offence for the Titans is a tall task and they can count themselves lucky that they already have eight wins to their name and a comfortable lead in the AFC South division.

What do the Titans have to offer on offence then? Well on paper not very much the ground game will be led by D’Onta Foreman with Dontrell Hilliard filling in on passing downs but that combination hardly makes up for the loss of Henry. At receiver they look very thin having lost both Julio Jones and A.J.

Brown to injury and that would leave a trio of Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Dez Fitzpatrick and slot man Chester Rogers as the starters in three-receivers sets. Hardly a triumvirate to cause tremors in the Patriots defence that has controlled and contained far better players in the past few weeks. New England don’t allow big plays either and if Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill starts to force the issue there could well be trouble ahead.

Tannehill has thrown exactly one touchdown per game in his last three but has totalled five interceptions and has three fumbles (zero lost). The Patriots defensive line will also have an advantage over the Titans offensive line which has struggled to protect Tannehill over the past few weeks. The Patriots defensive line, front seven, and scheme are tailor-made to apply pressure to struggling protection units, which is exactly where the stuttering and depleted Titans offence is at.

Once Tom Brady was gone from the Patriots they were always going to be in rebuild mode especially at quarterback and they have reverted to old-school football – run the ball and play great defence. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones is running an offence that isn’t flashy but it is functional and he’s making the right decisions for the most part with just two interceptions in the last five games. Jones has just one 300-yard game among 11 starts and although he contributes little with his legs he is developing into a safe and reliable passing option.

It’s on the ground that the Patriots are basing their success behind a very strong offensive line and a commitment to the running game although they do operate a three-man carousel in the backfield depending on the situation. It looks as though Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson will share the majority of the carries which within the Patriots current scheme should be of a voluminous nature as I can hardly see them starting to air the ball out all over the place. Brandon Bolden will enter the fray on passing downs to supplement Harris and Stevenson. Given the Patriots defence their offence may well be operating off some short fields again.

Over their last five games the Patriots are averaging 35 points per game and whilst having some advantageous field positions has had a lot to do with that scoring prowess head coach Bill Belichick does have them functioning well at the moment and they could hardly be meeting the Titans at a better time.

It’s fair to say that this doesn’t look a classic if like your football to be end-to-end stuff with the ball being aired out all over the place. Tannehill isn’t working with much on the offence and against a defence that is heading towards an elite classification on current form there must be every chance that any Patriots pressure will cause turnovers and lead to the short fields that this offence thrives off.

Ordinarily, in this situation you would be looking towards the unders especially with a depleted Titans offence and a New England defence that is averaging 10 points allowed per game over its last five games. The combination of Cleveland, Atlanta, and Carolina scored a total of one TD versus New England over the last three weeks, with Tennessee managing under 300 yards of offense per game since Week 9. All of those statistics are factored into the prices though and there isn’t much margin for error so in a game I can see the Titans having problems scoring in and New England overcoming the handicap in a slow-paced game the recommended play ticks plenty of boxes.

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PROFIT/LOSS (NOVEMBER 2021): LOSS -11.64 points
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