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A couple more keys to the game

With kicking expected to be difficult in frigid temps, how the teams fare on fourth down conversion tries could be key.

At 2:41 p.m., the actual temperature at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough was 9.6 degrees with 6.8 mph winds making it feel like minus-1.3 degrees, according to WBZ Channel 4 in Boston. That should worsen as the sun sets and night falls upon the Patriots and Titans, who will battle in what is expected to be the coldest game in Patriots history, topping a 1989 game played in Pittsburgh in minus-9 degree weather with the wind chill factored in.

The football will be like a rock tonight and it will make for a difficult evening for the kickers, who haven't been able to doctor the balls in recent years since the league introduced the K-ball for use by kickers only.

The difficulty kicking will raise the importance of fourth down conversions. Since neither team is likely to try a non-desperation field goal from outside of the 30-yard line, if that, the two coaches may find themselves trying to convert fourth downs when across the opponent's 40.

Tennessee was 6-of-14 (42.9 percent) on fourth down tries during the regular season while its defense allowed 11-of-18 (61.1 percent) conversion attempts. The Patriots also converted 6-of-14 attempts offensively, but only allowed 6-of-16 (37.5 percent) of the opponent's fourth down tries.

Another key for New England could be the play of rookie nickel back Asante Samuel, who is one of 18 Patriots who has never played in a postseason game. Titans MVP quarterback Steve McNair is likely to test Samuel in passing situations and the rookie will have to respond.

Samuel had two interceptions and nine pass breakups during the season and has a nose for the ball. McNair will likely target the nickel back on third down and also test him deep out of his slot defender position. A big play by or against Samuel could be a key factor in the game.

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