Wild Card weekend lived up to its name and there are now only four teams remaining on the AFC side of the bracket for the Divisional round.
This past weekend saw one game that was thrilling and another that could have put folks to sleep but all that matters is which team moves on. The Tennessee Titans walked into Arrowhead Stadium and upset the heavily favored Chiefs, erasing an 18-point deficit in the process. The Jaguars held serve at home on the strength of quarterback Blake Bortles’ running prowess and a nasty defense. The road to the Super Bowl gets harder for both teams this week in the Divisional round of the playoffs.
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots
The reward for knocking off the Chiefs is the Titans get to travel to New England to face Tom Brady and company. Tennessee will be heavy underdogs yet again and they will have their hands full with the Patriots passing game. Before being forced from the game due to a concussion, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was destroying the Titans defense.
Surely, Patriots tight end Rob Grownkoski is watching that film and salivating at his chance this weekend. Defending running back Dion Lewis is also going to be a challenge for Tennessee. Coach Bill Belichick won’t be so foolish as to not get his running back involved like Andy Reid refused to involve Kareem Hunt last week. The Titans struggled during the season against backs who were adept in the passing game and that plays to the strength of Lewis.
For the Titans to win, one of two things(and likely both) have to happen. Running back Derrick Henry is going to have to have another game where he accounts for over 150 scrimmage yards and at least a touchdown or quarterback Marcus Mariota will just have to put the team on his back. The Titans should aim to hold the ball for at least 32-35 minutes in this game.
The longer they have it, the longer the New England defense has to stay on the field and tackling Henry. At some point, that will wear them down. It’s just a matter of the Titans keeping it close enough on the scoreboard to execute this plan.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers will be seeking revenge from one of their most humbling losses of the season when they take on the Jaguars this week. When they met previously, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a whopping five interceptions and the Jaguars cruised to victory. Wide receiver Antonio Brown is expected to be back and basically at full health after partially tearing his calf in Week 15.
The offense looks to be all systems go and it will be interesting to see if they have to knock off any rust since they haven’t played in two weeks. The defense has been playing a little bit better since cornerback Joe Haden made his way back into the lineup. Even with him, the defense is still struggling to deal with the loss of linebacker Ryan Shazier.
If Jacksonville is to repeat winning in Pittsburgh, quarterback Blake Bortles flat out has to play better. It’s been an odd season for Bortles. He’s had games where he looked like things were clicking. He’s also had games like this past Sunday when he appeared to not be able to hit water if he fell out of a boat. Bortles has a bad habit of letting his mechanics get sloppy and it appears that running back Leonard Fournette isn’t fully healthy to help pick up that slack.
Fournette has been battling leg injuries for the second half of the season. The Jaguars defense is the straw that stirs the drink and they will have to bring their best effort to thwart the Pittsburgh offense. Both games this weekend could be a blowout victory, but just ask the Chiefs how those games can turn out.