The Patriots certainly aren’t strangers to the team visiting Gillette Stadium on Saturday night.
After falling to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, New England now will be forced to play on Wild Card Weekend for the first time since 2009. Its opponent will be the Tennessee Titans, who clinched the AFC’s sixth seed with a Week 17 win over the Houston Texans.
The Titans, of course, are led by former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, but their head coach is just a fraction of the Patriots ties within Tennessee’s entire operation. As NFL Network’s Peter Schrager explained Monday, the Titans’ familiarity with the Patriots could set the stage for an upset at Gillette Stadium.
“The Titans-Patriots game is going to be a game, and there’s more than just ‘here’s this hot team coming into Foxboro.’ The connections are so deep between these two franchises,” Schrager said on “Good Morning Football. “It starts with the general manager, Jon Robinson — learned everything he learned from Bill Belichick. The head coach, Mike Vrabel, played in 17 playoff games for Bill Belichick, including three Super Bowl titles. Then you’ve got Dion Lewis and you’ve got Logan Ryan and, though he’s on the IR, Malcolm Butler and Dean Pees, the defensive coordinator, comes from New England. It’s basically like New England Jr. with Derrick Henry in the backfield and Ryan Tannehill who, oh, by the way, as a Dolphins player used to win a lot of games against the Patriots. This is not a great matchup for the Patriots. It is actually the matchup I would least want to see.”
Schrager added: “There’s so much institutional knowledge of what the Patriots do in that Tennessee building right now, and they kicked the crap out of them last year.”
"The #Titans vs. Patriots game is going to be A GAME." #GMFB
?: @gmfb on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/cOLHvkbPlg
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) December 30, 2019
The Titans certainly did pummel the Patriots when they met in Week 10 last season, but the roles were reversed in the teams’ latest postseason collision. New England had no trouble with Tennessee when the sides squared off the divisional round two seasons ago, which saw the Patriots post a three-score victory as they limited Henry to just 28 (!) yards on the ground.
Both teams, obviously, now look much different, and the case can be made neither has a true upper-hand heading into Saturday. As such, we could be in store for a true slugfest with a trip to the divisional round on the line.