NASHVILLE to PROVIDENCE – OK, the time has almost arrived.
After a busy week, the Titans hopped on a plane Friday headed in the direction of Gillette Stadium, where the team will face the Patriots on Saturday night in the AFC divisional playoff round.
The Titans are one of just eight teams left, so it's getting pretty exciting.
On the flight to Providence, Rhode Island, where the team is staying before making the trek to Foxborough on Saturday, I banged out this mailbag to pass the time.
Here's hoping tonight is a good one for the Titans…
Will Smith from Springfield, Tennessee
Question: How does this team compare to our playoff slump that began after the divisional round in New England 14 years ago? Absent Marcus Mariota's experience to the late great Steve McNair.
Jim: Hey Will. Good question. Well, that 2003 team was packed with players with playoff experience, guys who were around for four playoff appearances, two AFC title game appearances and a Super Bowl trip in just a five-year span. That was the end of a great run. This year's team, while it has its share of players who've played in postseason games, is in the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season. But there's good energy – and confidence – with this bunch. And the hope is this is the first year of another long and successful run for the franchise.
James Gordon from Franklin, Tennessee
Question: Hi Jim, I noticed that the Patriots rank low in giving up yards on the ground and through the air; however, they rank high in points given up per game. Why do you think this is?
Jim: Hey James. The Patriots play great bend-but-don't-break defense. They are ranked 29th in the NFL in yards allowed per game (366.0) but fifth in points allowed (18.5) per contest. They stiffen up and make it tough for teams to score near the end zone. It's one of the biggest keys in this one – the Titans need touchdowns, not field goals.
Franco Grassi II from Yakima, Washington
Question: Hey Jim. Thanks for responding to my last question. It was about a month or so ago when I last asked something. This time it's more a request then a question. So here goes... I remember the Texans-Patriots playoff game from last year if you remember the Texans deployed Clowney on blitzes from in front of the center throughout the second half and he dominated him. Do you think you could ask coach LeBeau if he could send more blitzes up the middle at Brady rather than from the edge because Brady and his guards and centers are more susceptible to taking sacks from there. I have all the faith in the world our boys call pull this out but I think blitzing from the middle rather than the edge will be way more effective. Thanks for all that you do Jim... #TitanUp
Jim: Hey Franco. I'll spread the word, but let's keep this secret between us. :) The biggest thing LeBeau said this week is Tom Brady kills teams when he knows what to expect. LeBeau will try to keep him off-balance with pressure and coverage. And I'm sure he's taking everything into consideration. Have a great one!
William Land from Denver, Colorado
Question: Hey Jim, lifetime titans fan here, love this team! But after watching for years and seeing our quarterbacks try and make physical plays but get injured, do you think they will try and dial Marcus Mariota back on his blocking? I love watching him make physical plays but he has franchise QB potential and I would hate to lose him like Jake locker or Vince Young. Thanks Jim, have a great day!
Jim: Hey William. I get what you are saying, but Marcus is a baller, pure and simple. That play against the Chiefs didn't necessarily call for him to put his shoulder into a linebacker, but in the heat of the moment he's going to do it. I don't think there's any way someone could convince him not to in that situation.
Derek Brokmeier from New Bern, North Carolina
Question: Hey Jim, just wanted to say thank you for being so informative on the Titans and I really enjoy reading the mailbag every week. I want to say first that I am disappointed in myself for giving up on Mike Mularkey and the Titans. I've been a die-hard fan since 1999 and stayed through the highs and lows. However, after week 16 vs LA I was on the verge of completely giving up. This team is for real though and everyone including myself needs to get behind these Titans and Mularkey. That kind of comeback happens bc of the mindset coach has instilled in this team and I'm happy to be a Titans fan. My question is do you think this offense will keep the momentum rolling next week against a potentially better defense? Also, why doesn't our defense get more respect? They are so underrated. Thanks Jim and keep doing what you do man.
Jim: Hey Derek. I appreciate it. And don't be hard on yourself – you didn't give up. You're still here! I think the offense is going to have to have a nice mix to beat the Patriots. Derrick Henry needs to run well, and some long, time-consuming drives with successful runs would help the Titans and their chances on Saturday night. But Mariota is going to have to make play through the air as well to open things up. As for the defense, it's really stepped things up since early in the season. A big challenge against the Patriots and the NFL's No.2-ranked scoring offense tonight, though.
Mark McCullough from S Padre Island, Texas
Question: Hey Jim. What a game (at KC)! It's hard to get that "Dump Truck" rolling but when it does it's even harder to stop it. I think someone needs to call that guy down in Carolina and tell him to go ahead and send Marcus his cape, not that he would accept it. This guy we have here in Nashville calling plays for us is special and the humility he displays is unique. I can't say enough when it comes to #8 and the way the team rallies behind him. Truly special. He needs to take Henry out in the back yard and teach him how to pick up blitzes. Question: Is Murray out for season, and if not did Henry win the next start. Well as always I appreciate your dedication in keeping us informed. On to the next game. We should be an even bigger underdog next week at Pitt or NE, but I believe that is a plus for us. Go Titans.
Jim: Hey Mark. Appreciate the question. Well, I can tell you Murray is out for this game. If this season continues, then check back for his status moving forward. I saw him walking around the facility this week and he's making improvement. He made the trip with his teammates. But he's not healthy enough to play right now. So the Derrick Henry show goes on.
Have a great weekend everyone!
Go behind the scenes as the Titans travel to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots in Saturday's AFC Divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. (Donn Jones, Nate Bain)