Tennessee Titans (8-3, 7-4 ATS) at New England Patriots (7-4, 7-4), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s Titans Stats and Trends
Tennessee has covered five straight games as an underdog, and they’re 4-1 ATS in their last five road games.
The Titans are 6-1 toward overs in their last seven road games.
The Titans’ offense managed just 13 points with five turnovers in an embarrassing loss to the Texans last week.
Ryan Tannehill is coming off a disastrous four-INT performance against the lowly Texans, and he’s now leading the league with 12 INTs on the season. He’s now thrown for one or fewer TDs in seven of his last eight games, and he’s scored 19+ FP just twice in that span. The Patriots have limited the last three starting QBs (Ryan, Baker, Darnold) they’ve faced to fewer than six FP each.
A.J. Brown got knocked out of Week 11 early with hand and chest injuries, and he’ll be in a race to play this week. Just when they needed him the most after the Derrick Henry injury, he’s fallen flat the last three weeks with a combined 11/106 receiving on 24 targets. He had 25/379/2 receiving on 29 targets in three games before his recent cold spell. The Patriots wiped out Kyle Pitts (3/29 receiving) last week and they’ll give Brown extra attention if he plays this week.
Nick Westbrook-Ikhine could be forced into a prominent role with Tennessee's top three receivers each nursing injuries. Westbrook-Ikhine led the Titans with 7/107 receiving on eight targets (15% share) and 37 routes with the Titans chasing the Titans all game. Dez Fitzpatrick (46 routes) and Chester Rogers (45) each saw the field more than Westbrook-Ikhine, with Fitzpatrick posting 3/35/1 receiving and Rogers finishing with 4/41 receiving on six targets. The Patriots are giving up the fourth-fewest FPG (30.3) to WRs this season.
Dontrell Hilliard impressed the Titans’ coaching staff enough that they felt comfortable releasing Adrian Peterson this week. Hilliard went from being a practice-squad player to leading this backfield in catches (8), scrimmage yards (83), and snap share (63%) with the Titans shockingly chasing the Texans all game long in Week 11. D’Onta Foreman managed just 7/25 rushing and 1/15 receiving on a 19% snap share with the Titans trailing all game, and Jeremy McNichols will look to jump back in as a passing back this week after missing for a concussion last week. The Patriots are giving up a generous 6.7/62.0 receiving per game to RBs, which gives McNichols/Hilliard a chance on the low end.
Brolley’s Patriots Stats and Trends
The Patriots have won and covered in five straight games.
New England is 5-2 toward overs in its last seven games.
New England has covered the spread by a ridiculous average margin of 21.6 points, and they’ve outscored their last three opponents (Atlanta, Cleveland, Carolina) 94-13 in Weeks 9-11.
The Patriots’ backfield is looking like it will be more of a full-blown, three-man committee down the home stretch than it has been through the first 10 weeks of the season. Damien Harris served as the 1A next to the 1B Rhamondre Stevenson as they alternated series against the Falcons, and Brandon Bolden stole just enough work in the passing game to be a thorn in the side for the top two backs. Harris finished with 10/56 rushing and 1/9 receiving on a 39% snap share, while Stevenson posted 12/69 rushing and 1/6 receiving on a 34% snap share. Bolden added 3/16 scrimmage on a 27% share. New England’s backfield is certainly subject to change with Bill Belichick in charge, but the rookie Stevenson has earned a significant role next to the effective Harris moving forward. The Patriots will continue to roll with their current backfield setup until one of these backs makes a mistake or two. The Titans are giving up the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game (73.1) and 4.0 YPC to RBs.
Mac Jones completed an efficient 84.6% of his passes (22/26) and he averaged 8.0 YPA (207 yards) against the Falcons in Week 11, but he threw for just one TD to finish with 11.4 FP. New England’s offense has vastly improved since the first five weeks of the season, but they’ve been blowing out teams, which has led to just 22.3 attempts per game in Weeks 9-11. The Titans are giving up the third-most FPG (20.9) to QBs this season.
Kendrick Bourne has 4+ receptions in six of his last nine games. He was once again extremely efficient with his limited looks in Week 11, catching all four of his targets for 42 yards against the Falcons. He’s now averaging career-best in YPR (15.2) and in catch rate (78.7%). Jakobi Meyers went back to not finding the end zone last week, and he’s now failed to top 50+ receiving yards in six straight games. He still has 4+ catches in 10-of-11 contests this season. Nelson Agholor had his best game since the season opener by catching all five of his targets for 40 yards and a TD. The Titans are still giving up a league-high 43.5 FPG to WRs this season.
Every receiver in New England’s passing game is a TD-or-bust option at this point, especially Hunter Henry, who scored seven TDs in a seven-game stretch in Weeks 4-10. Henry came up short last week with just 2/25 receiving on three targets, but he did see his ninth end-zone target, which is six more than the next closest Patriot, Agholor. The Titans have given up just three TDs to TEs this season.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 28 (20th)
Plays per game: 70.1 (5th)
Pass: 57.0% (25th) | Run: 43.0% (8th)
Pace: 29.3 (24th)
Plays per game: 65.0 (22nd)
Pass: 53.6% (29th) | Run: 46.4% (4th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
The Patriots have shifted to extremely run-heavy in recent weeks and, I’ve got to say… it’s working! Over the last month, only the Eagles (72%) are more run-heavy on early-downs than the Patriots (61%). New England has cashed in offensively with their run game being the focal point as they’ve scored on 49% of their possessions over their last four games, which is the third-highest rate in the league in this span. Now that Rhamondre Stevenson has earned the coaches trust and Damien Harris is healthy, I have to imagine that OC Josh McDaniels is going to keep running the rock – especially since they are strong home-favorites here.
The Titans are in danger of a full-blown, Chernobyl-style meltdown here. They got two easy game-scripts in their first two games without Derrick Henry as the Rams completely flopped in Week 9 and then they played the Trevor Siemian-led Saints in Week 10, but everything came crashing down last week against the Texans. Their lack of a consistent run game was fully exposed as Ryan Tannehill dropped back to pass a season-high 54 times against Houston in a hopeless effort. Tennessee is going to get absolutely rocked if they are forced to play that way this week because New England’s defense is perhaps the hottest unit in the league. Over the last five weeks, they’ve allowed a 57% completion rate, 5.5 YPA, a 4:12 TD-to-INT ratio while generating 15 sacks and 13 turnovers.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
The Titans are a virtual lock to make the playoffs. However, they really need to catch a break concerning their defensive backs. DC Shane Bowen has resorted to shifting his perimeter and situational DBs in a perpetual rotation as individuals succumb-or-survive the injury report. But the purpose here is to identify weaknesses, not to imply any sympathy. One of those D-backs that has seen his role altered along the way has been 2021 third-rounder Elijah Molden. Forced into time as a safety early in the season, Molden has settled into his natural position out of the slot. On the season, Molden is supplying 1.39 YPCS (eighth-most), 0.31 FP/CS (also eighth), and a 108.0 passer rating (seventh-highest) to his coverage assignments.
For those unaware, the PPR ceiling for Jakobi Meyers is unknown. His route running is sharp, his hands are reliable, and he is perfectly comfortable working on the outside when the Patriots are utilizing Heavy personnel. Meyers is unlike most “slot” WRs; he has remained on the field for at least 90% of passing plays in eight-of-11 games this season. Two factors have worked against him: (1) despite drawing at least a 21% target share in seven games, he’s only found the end zone once. (2) He is extremely game-script dependent. In four defeats, Meyers has averaged 10.3 targets and 14.3 FPG. In eight victories, 5.9 targets/game and 7.7 FPG. Consider that New England has nearly averaged more PPG (35.0) than opponents have scored against their defense over the last five games… COMBINED (38)!
With Jackrabbit Jenkins either hobbled or inactive altogether, Meyers will work against a secondary that is encouraging the most receptions (15.5), yards (200.1), red zone touches (2.36), and fifth-most TDs (1.27) per game to opposing WR units. All told, the Titans are allowing 43.3 FPG to WRs (obviously the most).
Dolan’s Vantage Points
So, this game is kind of important from a playoff perspective.
Odds of No. 1 seed in FO playoff odds simulation:— Aaron Schatz 🏈 (@FO_ASchatz) November 23, 2021
🏈If #Patriots beat #Titans: NE 36%, TEN 13%
🏈If #Titans beat #Patriots: TEN 52%, NE 6%
That's pretty big stakes for both teams! #ForeverNE #TitanUp
From a fantasy perspective… we’re not so sure. As well as Patriot QB Mac Jones is playing, he’s thrown just 67 passes the last three games, and his receivers are extremely touchdown dependent. WR Nelson Agholor scored last week, but he has just 3 TD on the year and hasn’t topped 10 FP in a PPR without scoring all year. Kendrick Bourne also has 3 TD, and has topped 10 FP without scoring just twice. Slot receiver Jakobi Meyers set the NFL record for being allergic to TDs before breaking his scoreless streak in Week 10, but he hasn’t gotten the catch volume needed to be useful on a weekly basis. After topping 10 FP in a PPR — without a TD — in three of his first four games of the year, he hasn’t done it since Week 4.
Meanwhile, TE Hunter Henry is likely the one guy you feel good about starting for this passing game, but mostly because of the lack of other options at the position. Henry has gone over 42 receiving yards just once all season, and he hasn’t caught more than 4 passes in all but two games this year. But touchdowns are deodorant, and Henry’s scored a bunch of them. For your fantasy team’s sake, let’s hope that keeps coming. He’s questionable with a neck injury, of course.
At least earlier in the year, we could count on Damien Harris in this backfield, but as we feared, when Harris returned from his concussion in Week 11, the Patriots employed a three-man rotation in the backfield because Rhamondre Stevenson was so good in Week 10 and the team trusts Brandon Bolden most in passing-game situations. The breakdown was as such — Harris (39% snaps), Stevenson (34%), Bolden (27%). Stevenson picked up a knee injury in practice this week,
Moreover, Bolden (11) led the way in routes followed by Harris (8) and Stevenson (6). New England ran just seven plays in the red-zone in Week 11, but those snaps were split too. Harris and Stevenson got 3 snaps apiece while Bolden got 1. If you’re playing a Patriots back, you’re hoping for a TD to make a FLEX play worthy.
The Titans are making a very good case that Running Backs Matter — at least very good ones and very bad ones. And the issue is they’ve gone from a very good one to a bunch of very bad ones.
Titans EPA/play with/without Derrick Henry (PFF)— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 22, 2021
Overall: +0.037 (No. 8)
Pass: +0.071 (No. 15)
Run: -0.003 (No. 2)
Overall: -0.188 (No. 26)
Pass: -0.154 (No. 23)
Run: -0.237 (No. 27)
Only offenses more inefficient Weeks 9-11: CIN, LAR, DET, HOU, SEA, ATL.
One of them — Adrian Peterson — was so bad that the Titans cut him this week, leaving them with D’Onta Foreman, Dontrell Hilliard, and Jeremy McNichols (who missed last week with a concussion). Have fun picking one, though the club is high on Hilliard, we’re told. Foreman looks like the early-down guy and Hilliard/McNichols the passing-down workers. The Patriots’ defense is nasty, though.
And QB Ryan Tannehill won’t haved star WR AJ Brown, who suffered hand and chest injuries last week. With Marcus Johnson (hamstring) also out and Julio Jones on IR, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine made his once-monthly fantasy relevant appearance last week. The Titans are so WR-poor that they went out and picked up Golden Tate this week, and he’s expected to play.
Veteran WR Golden Tate, signed to the team's practice squad on Tuesday, practiced for the first time today.— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) November 24, 2021
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It’s hard to trust anyone from Tennessee against this defense, frankly.