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Game Predictions: Expert picks for Patriots vs. Titans

20200103-ExpertPredictions-PDC

Experts share their picks for the Patriots AFC Wild Card Playoff matchup against the Tennessee Titans.

Mike Reiss, ESPN:

Pick: Patriots 20, Titans 17

The Patriots were plus-21 in turnover differential during the regular season, which led the NFL and is a point that Titans coach Mike Vrabel has been stressing this week to his team. New England's defense and special teams haven't created a turnover in each of the past two games, and they are determined to reverse that trend.

Turron Davenport, ESPN

Pick: Titans 24, Patriots 20

Bold prediction: Titans running back Derrick Henry will rush for more than 100 yards and score two touchdowns -- one of which will be on a big play via the screen game. The Patriots utilize a lot of blitzes, which set up perfectly for a well-timed screen pass. Henry will be a major factor in the second half as the Titans milk the clock to protect a late fourth-quarter lead.

Mike Golic, ESPN: Patriots

Seth Wickersham, ESPN: Patriots

Mina Kimes, ESPN: Patriots

Dan Graziano, ESPN: Patriots

Trey Wingo, ESPN: Titans

Kevin Seifert, ESPN: Patriots

Matt Bowen, ESPN: Patriots

Mike Clay, ESPN: Patriots

Jason Reid, ESPN: Patriots

Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com

Pick: Titans 30, Patriots 27

Ryan Tannehill was the primary reason the Titans had the NFL's best offense over the second half of the season. That Tannehill and first-year offensive coordinator Arthur Smith could pilot a unit that's been even more efficient than the Ravens' and Chiefs' attacks down the stretch is perhaps this season's most pleasant surprise.

The Titans match up well with an aging Patriots team that could have seriously used a week off. The New England defense's all-out blitzes are no longer confusing opponents, with the Dolphins showing just how to beat them last week. Tannehill's ability to make accurate throws on the run is a problem for a group that struggles with mobile quarterbacks, while Derrick Henry's dogged excellence keeps the Titans on the field, setting them up for explosive plays. A.J. Brown, like DeVante Parker last week, has the physical attributes that even Stephon Gilmore can't stop in one-on-one coverage.

Could the Patriots force Tannehill to hold the ball too long with exotic coverages, create a turnover or two and set up Tom Brady to have one last great home playoff performance? Of course they could. As rough as Sunday's loss to the Dolphins was, the team's offensive line has shown improvement over the last few weeks. Brady's apparent elbow issue (which he insists is not an issue) and accuracy are unpredictable, but this is a favorable matchup against a Titans defense without much juice in the secondary or pass rush. (Although the expected return of cornerback Adoree' Jackson helps.) The Patriots were a 10-6 team given a couple extra wins by their cake schedule, but any 10-6 team piloted by the greatest week-to-week coach in NFL history is capable of winning a home playoff game.

Ten years after the Ravens helped inspire the first "Is the Patriots dynasty ... ?" articles to be written, Brady is clearly fighting an uphill battle. It's easy to imagine him playing well and the Patriots still falling short, another example of a team built around defense losing to a high-flying offense in Foxborough in January.

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports:

Pick: Patriots 27, Titans 19

The Titans are playing well as they move to the playoffs, while the Patriots are coming off a bad loss to the Dolphins that has them playing this weekend. They are not familiar with that in their dynasty era. But I think they will respond to it. Look for the defense to take away Derrick Henry and force Ryan Tannehill to win the game. He is 0-6 as a starter in his career against the Patriots in Foxborough, which will show up here. The Patriots get back on track and advance behind the defense and an improved offense.

Jason La Canfora, CBS Sports: Titans

Will Brinson, CBS Sports: Patriots

Dave Richard, CBS Sports: Patriots

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Patriots

John Breech, CBS Sports: Titans

Jamey Eisenberg, CBS Sports: Patriots

Jared Dubin, CBS Sports: Patriots

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk:

Pick: Patriots 23, Titans 20

The Patriots are the Terminator; presume they're dead at your own peril. And they're not dead until the metal-skeleton corpse is dismembered, dissolved in acid, and the acid is burned until it fully evaporates. The Patriots know how to play single-elimination football; Tom Brady has 40 postseason starts. Ryan Tannehill? None. Yes, the Titans are the better team. But the better team doesn't always win.

Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk:

Pick: Patriots 17, Titans 16

Since benching Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill, the Titans have become one of the best teams in football. In fact, the Titans are 7-3 since Tannehill became the starter — better than the Patriots over the same time. New England is just 4-4 over the last eight games. So I'm strongly tempted to pick the Titans, but instead I just feel like I can't pick against New England, at home, in the playoffs. The Patriots will take this one, but it won't be easy.

Albert Breer, SI: Patriots

Jenny Vrentas, SI: Patriots

Conor Orr, SI: Patriots

Kalyn Kahler, SI: Titans

Andrew Brandt, SI: Patriots

Mitch Goldich, SI: Titans

Bette Marston, SI: Patriots

Andy Hart, WEEI

Pick: Patriots 20, Titans 17

There really are a lot of factors to digest in this Wild Card matchup. First, the records should probably be thrown out. Tennessee has played much better than its record at times, while New England has been worse than its overall record down the stretch. The New England defense feasted early in the year, but has been pushed around at various times over the last three games by the less-than-spectacular offenses of the Dolphins, Bills and Bengals. The Titans are very much capable of doing the same. Brady and his offense just haven't clicked regularly enough, or as he put it been "tied together." They certainly need to find a way to do that in order to attempt to advance to defend their Super Bowl title. If there is a wild card in this Wild Card game it could be either N'Keal Harry or Mohamed Sanu. New England needs to get more from its passing attack than just Edelman and James White, guys that Vrabel's schemes have found a way to get physical with and slow in the past. But the complementary targets just haven't been up to the task consistently all season. Put it all together and this has the makings of a dogfight. But that's playoff football and in some ways that's what the Patriots have been prepping for all season. While history won't matter in the actual matchup, it's hard to bet against Belichick and Brady in the playoffs in Foxborough, especially when it could be their last ride together. So we won't, but it won't be easy. We'll go with the 20-17 win for New England to advance to a matchup with the Chiefs. But Patriots fans better hope their team is more confident in its play than we are in this pick.

Paul Perillo, Patriots.com:

Pick: Patriots 24, Titans 23

Patriots defense forces some mistakes from Ryan Tannehill and that's enough to move on to Kansas City.

Mike Dussault, Patriots.com:

Pick: Patriots 24, Titans 23

The Titans have all the pieces to knock the Patriots off but after last week's dud against the Dolphins it's a good bet that New England puts forth their best effort of the season. It will still be a battle that goes down to the wire.

Erik Scalavino, Patriots.com

Pick: Titans 24, Patriots 20

Most teams that visit Gillette Stadium are overwhelmed by the mystique of this building. The few that aren't come here with an abundance of confidence and often leave with a victory (think the 2009 Ravens and '10 Jets). This Titans team might be next in line. Tennessee has a great running back, two phenomenal wide receivers, and a three-headed tight end monster on offense. The Titans also have a coaching staff very familiar with the Patriots (H.C. Mike Vrabel, D.C. Dean Pees). I certainly won't be surprised if New England comes out on top in this game, but I think Tennessee has what it takes to advance.

Megan O'Brien, Patriots.com

Pick: Titans 27, Patriots 20

Patriots fall short and can't find a way to stop the wide receiver duo plus Derrick Henry.

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