2018 AFC Divisional Playoffs: Three things to watch in Titans v Patriots
For the third time in four years, reigning NFL Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots are the top seed in the AFC and have homefield throughout the playoffs.
The Patriots have played in six successive AFC championship games, and it will be a tough task for the Tennessee Titans to prevent New England from reaching a seventh.
The Titans (10-7) rallied from a 21-3 deficit to pull off a 22-21 wildcard win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota will have to be at his best on Saturday to beat the Patriots (13-3) at Gillette Stadium.
WILL THE PATRIOTS REMAIN FOCUSED?
Quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, as well as others, were forced to answer questions all week after ESPN reported that there was turmoil atop the organisation.
Reports of discontent were quickly denied, but it would be only human nature for such a distraction to affect preparation. Still, if there is one thing the Patriots have done better than most under Belichick, it is quieting the noise.
CAN HENRY STAY HOT?
The Patriots had the NFL's 20th-ranked rush defense during the regular season, allowing a 100-yard rusher four times. The last two came in December when Miami's Kenyan Drake and Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell joined Kansas City's Kareem Hunt and Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon as players to eclipse the century mark against the Patriots.
Derrick Henry is coming off a 156-yard effort against the Chiefs as Tennessee's offensive line wore down Kansas City. It was Henry's third 100-yard game this season as he led the Titans during the regular season with 744 yards while splitting carries with DeMarco Murray. With Murray injured, Henry was the workhorse against the Chiefs and will have to carry the load again in Foxborough since Murray has been ruled out.
CAN THE TITANS CONTAIN GRONKOWSKI?
The Titans did not allow a tight end to have 100 receiving yards in a game this season. They were getting burned by Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce in the first half of last week's game, which changed dramatically when Kelce was injured just before half-time. Kelce had four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
The Titans now have to contend with Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who led New England with 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in only 14 games.
Gronkowski has gone for more than 140 yards in two of his last three games, but the Titans have excellent safeties in Johnathan Cyprien and Kevin Byard, who led the NFL with eight interceptions this season.