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On a Limb? Analyst Predicting a Titans Win Over Patriots


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Not many outsiders are giving the Titans much of a chance against the defending Super Bowl champs.

Maurice Jones-Drew isn't among them. The former Jaguars running back, now an analyst with NFL Network, is picking the Titans to win against the Patriots in the AFC divisional playoff round on Saturday night.

"The reason being is Derrick Henry," Jones-Drew said on NFL Network this week. "(He's) 6-3, 245-250 pounds, and they run the ball. The Patriots, in the month of December, are 20th in the league, averaging 115 (rushing) yards per game on defense. So they are giving up a 100-yard rusher. Derrick Henry gets 156 yards this (past weekend against the Chiefs). You know they are going to run the rock. And the one way you are going to beat Tom Brady is keep him off the field.

"I have the Titans actually going in there and handling business."

In another segment, Jones-Drew called the Titans "a dangerous team." Jones-Drew is in the minority, although his NFL Network colleague Steve Wyche said the Titans "have a shot against the Patriots," albeit a "long shot."

The majority of the prognosticators are picking the Patriots, and some don't think it will be close.

In a CBS podcast, former NFL quarterbacks Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms seemed to scoff at Tennessee's chances when discussing the game.

"As I am trying to sift through all the answers as to why Mike Mularkey and Marcus Mariota can go in there and win, I really don't have the answers," Esiason said. "I don't see it happening."

"I don't either, and I don't even know where to start," Simms said. "Let's see: How are they going to match up against New England's offense? Last week they had trouble covering Travis Kelce, and now this week they have Rob Gronkowski. All the running backs, where are they going to line up? How often is Tennessee going to see an offense like that?

"And then, of course, Tom Brady and a good offensive line. And then on the other side. What can Marcus Mariota do? Can they run the football well enough to dominate the game? And my answer to that is, "no.' New England is not going to let you win the game with something like that."

Esiason predicted the Patriots will attempt to take away Henry and Titans tight end Delanie Walker and leave it all up to Mariota.

Dan Shaughnessy, a sports columnist with the Boston Globe, really stirred things up this week when he wrote a column titled: Forget the Titans.

"Patriots first team in NFL history awarded back-to-back bye weeks before the AFC Championship," Shaughnessy said via Twitter.

He wrote this in his column: "The Titans are a joke and have no business making the trek to Foxborough for a divisional playoff game Saturday night. These Titans are accidental tourists in the 2017-18 NFL tournament. They are 13-point underdogs. They have absolutely zero chance to beat the Patriots Saturday night."

Manish Mehta with the New York Daily News, wrote this on Friday morning: "Tom Brady will unleash holy hell on the poor Titans. Hide the women and children, Titans fans."

The Titans have said this week they're not putting much stock into what's being said about them, but that's not easy. The Patriots finished the regular season with a 13-3 record, and as the AFC's No.1-seeded team.

"With social media nowadays, you don't really have an option but to see what people say," Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "So as much as I don't pay attention to it, it is in my face. … I know people are counting us out. But I think this is the kind of team people make movies about.

"… People are going to put odds on us, but I don't give two &%!$ one way or other. My focus is to be the best left tackle I can be and if I do my job and 10 other guys do their job, then there won't be a line to worry about."

Titans safety Kevin Byard said the team is focused, and ready to prove its doubters wrong.

"It used to be frustrating earlier in the year when we weren't getting any respect, but I have been kind of used to it," Byard said. "I mean it wasn't any different last week (when we were underdogs vs the Chiefs), and it's going to be the same thing this week times two.

"I have been seeing a lot of crazy things. Earlier in the week, coach showed us some reporter said the Patriots have back-to-back (bye) weeks before the AFC Championship Game. I just look at it and laugh, and I am pretty sure the entire world thinks of it the same way. But's that cool, I think it would make this win that much sweeter."

Titans players take the field for Thursday's practice at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)

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