The reigning Super Bowl champions have won the AFC East for 11 consecutive seasons, but ended up with the No. 3 seed in 2019 after falling to the Miami Dolphins in Week 17.
Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady has had a down season in 2019, while the Patriots are led by the NFL's top-ranked defense. The Titans own one of the top rush offenses in the league, averaging 138 rushing yards per game.
"It's a huge challenge," Titans coach Mike Vrabel told reporters Tuesday. "They haven't lost a home playoff game since January 20, 2013. So, it'll be a great challenge. Huge challenge for our football team and we have to begin the preparation to give ourselves a chance."
The Patriots (12-4) began the season with an 8-0 start, before falling to the Baltimore Ravens on the road. They went on to go 2-2 in their next four games before winning two of their final three games. The Titans have gone 9-7 in each of the last four seasons, but have one playoff appearance during that time frame. They lost in the divisional round during their 2017 playoff run after winning a wild card game at Kansas City.
"It's playoff time, you have to go out there and earn it," Patriots star cornerback Stephon Gilmore said. "There's a lot of situations that have been happening over the previous years where it don't matter what team is away or home.
"Whoever plays the best, that's who's going to win. So, that's how we look at it."
Tennessee began the season at 2-4, before switching from longtime starting quarterback Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill helped turn the team around and led the Titans to wins in six of their next seven games. This contest could come down to quarterback play if the Patriots can stop the Titans running game. Tannehill has never taken a snap in a playoff game, while Brady is the most experienced -- and successful -- quarterback in postseason history.
The Patriots are a five-point favorite to win, according to Caesars. The game has an over/under of 44.5 total points.
While the narrative of Brady's down season has been pushed as a reason for the Patriots' potential playoff downfall, New England still ranked seventh in points per game and eighth in passing yards this season. The Patriots also ranked eighth in passing last season, when they won the Super Bowl.
Brady, 42, threw multiple touchdown passes in eight of his 16 starts this season. He also posted one of the most-inaccurate seasons of his career, completing just 60.8 percent of his throws for 4,057 yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Tannehill, 31, had seven consecutive games with multiple touchdown passes to end the season. He also had three games with at least 300 passing yards since being named the full-time starter in Week 7. But the Titans' recipe for success will be simple, they'll need to dominate with their running game in order to open up their passing game.
Derrick Henry erupted in 2019, leading the NFL with 303 carries, 1,540 rushing yards and 16 scores. He ended the season with a season-high 211 yards and three touchdowns against the playoff-bound Houston Texans. Henry had at least 100 rushing yards and a score in five of his final six games this season. He should continue to be successful in this wild card matchup.
The Patriots again used several running backs throughout the 2019 season. Sony Michel led the group with 912 yards and seven rushing scores, but James White had 72 catches and five receiving scores out of the backfield. The Patriots did not have a running back rush for 100 yards in any game this season.
Neither team is loaded at wide receiver. Reigning Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman paces the Patriots' pass catchers. He had a career-high 1,117 yards on 100 catches in 16 games this season. It will be up to Brady's secondary options -- like rookie N'Keal Harry -- to step up in order to give the Patriots' passing game an advantage over Tennessee.
Rookie A.J. Brown led the Titans with 1,051 yards and eight scores this season. Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith will be looked to as secondary options, as the Patriots will likely key on stopping Brown.
The Patriots have the No. 1 defense in the NFL in terms of yards and points allowed. They have never done that in Tom Brady or coach Bill Belichick's tenure. New England ranked first in points allowed in 2016 and 2003 and won the Super Bowl both seasons.
New England's defense was much more dominant earlier in the season, when the Patriots did not allow more than 14 points in a game until a Week 9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots allowed 23 points or more in three of their final five games, finishing with a 2-3 record during that stretch.
Despite the Patriots' late season struggles, the Titans were even more generous down the stretch. Tennessee allowed 20 points or more in eight of nine games until holding the Houston Texans to 14 points in Week 17.
The Patriots defense is also leading the league in another very important category: takeaways. New England has a +21 takeaway differential in 2019. Despite the Patriots' offensive struggles, key takeaways could net New England fantastic field position. Star cornerback Stephon Gilmore will also likely be shadowing Brown, limiting the Titans' top playmaker. The Titans also have one of the worst pass defenses in the AFC, meaning the Patriots shouldn't have much trouble moving the ball through the air.
Neither team has had much consistency from the kicker position this season, but Nick Folk has appeared in seven games this year for the Patriots. The former Pro Bowl selection has made 14 of his 17 attempts, including making eight of his 11 attempts from at least 30 yards. Greg Joseph is the Titans kicker. The second-year player out of Florida Atlantic did not attempt a field goal in two games this season.
Both teams have modest production on punt and kick returns. The Titans have the edge when it comes to punting. Pro Bowl punter Brett Kern is averaging 47.1 yards per punt in 2019, the best mark in the AFC.
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots
When: 8:15 p.m. EST Saturday
Where: Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.