Yesterday I heard the following conversation in the hallway to my office:
“Do you think the Titans have a chance against Brady?”
“Not gonna happen my friend. They gotta go up to Bah-ston to play the Pats. No way they gonna win against Brady.”
It was clear with the respondents thick New England accent that he is pretty certain that the Titans might as well stay in Nashville instead of wasting time playing in the American Football Conference Divisional Playoff game at New England this Saturday.
The Titans advanced to this playoff round after “upsetting” the Kansas City Chiefs, 22-21, in last week’s Wildcard Playoff game in Kansas City. They called that one an upset but not many people were surprised about it. It’s a little different this week.
The defending Super Bowl champs are 100 point favorites in the game. (Actually, it’s 13.5)
I have read this week any thoughts on any possibilities of how the Titans could pull off one of the biggest upsets in NFL playoff history this weekend. Here are some of the ideas of how it could happen:
- Tom Brady gets injured
- Marcus Mariota has the best game of his career.
- Patriots turnover the ball five times.
- Derrick Henry gets 200 yards rushing.
- Titans’ defense totally plays beyond their ability.
Yeah, doesn’t look very hopeful to me either.
I’m sure the most diehard Titans’ fans have the faith but you’d compare them to people who still believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Sure, there’s always a chance. Upsets happen. The NFL hasn’t had one in a while. In fact, I wondered about NFL upsets in the playoffs. Here are the five biggest upsets in NFL playoff history:
- Jacksonville Jaguars 30, Denver Broncos 27 – 1996 AFC Divisional Playoffs: No one saw this coming. The Jaguars had made the playoffs in their second year of existence and played the Broncos who were 13-3. The Broncos jumped out to a 12-0 lead but missed both extra point attempts. The Jaguars came back to dominate the Broncos.
- Seattle Seahawks 41, New Orleans Saints 36 – 2010 NFC Wildcard: The Saints were the defending Super Bowl champions. It was a quirky situation since the Seahawks were hosting the playoff game with a 7-9 record as champions of a weak NFC West. Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch punished the Saints with 131 yards in perhaps the best game of his career.
- Atlanta Falcons 27, Green Bay Packers 7 – 2002 NFC Wildcard: It was all you heard before this game – “Green Bay had never lost a playoff game on the frozen tundra” – The Falcons dominated the Packers as Green Bay turned the ball over five times. Brett Favre had a complete meltdown in the game.
- Los Angeles Rams 21, Dallas Cowboys 19 – 1979 NFC Divisional Playoffs: The Cowboys came into the game with an 11-5 record and had played in the two previous Super Bowls. The Rams were 9-7 but QB Vince Ferragamo played lights-out in the game with two touchdown passes in what was Dallas Cowboys’ QB Roger Staubach’s last game.
- New York Giants 15, San Francisco 49ers 13 – 1990 NFC Championship Game: The 49ers were the dynasty at the time and were expected to return to the Super Bowl. With just over two minutes left in the game, 49er RB Roger Craig fumbled the ball which was recovered by Giants’ LB Lawrence Taylor to set up the game winning field goal by Matt Bahr.
There were many games to choose from but these stood out from the lists. Some of the common factors which led to upsets in NFL playoff games were:
- An NFL star player had the worst game of their season or career.
- Favored team had at least five turnovers.
- Player on underdog team had a career game.
So with the Patriots as a 13.5 point favorite this weekend, what are the top five point spreads in NFL playoff history (including Super Bowls):
- 19 points – San Francisco 49ers vs. San Diego Chargers (Super Bowl XXIX) – 49ers won 49-26.
- 18 points – Baltimore Colts vs. New York Jets (Super Bowl III) – Jets upset the Colts 16-7.
- 16.5 points – Minnesota Vikings vs. Arizona Cardinals (1998 NFC Divisional Playoffs) – Vikings won 41-21
- 15.5 points – San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears (1994 NFC Divisional Playoffs) – 49ers won 44-15.
- 15 points – Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons (1978 NFC Divisional Playoffs) – Cowboys won 27-20.
With the New England Patriots seemingly just using this week’s game against the Titans as a warmup for their AFC Championship matchup with Pittsburgh in two weeks, I wondered about the last times that New England had suffered an upset in the NFL Playoffs:
- 2012 AFC Championship Game – Lost to Baltimore Ravens 28-13.
- Patriots were 7.5 point favorites
- Tom Brady was “un-Brady like” with two interceptions.
- Patriots had 3 turnovers vs. none for Ravens.
- 2010 AFC Divisional Playoffs – Lost to NY Jets 28-21.
- Patriots were 9.5 point favorites
- Brady was sacked 5 times for 40 yards
- Jets QB Mark Sanchez outplayed Tom Brady. He completed 16 of 25 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns.
- 2009 AFC Wild Card Game – Lost to Baltimore Ravens 33-14.
- Patriots were 4 point favorites
- Ravens outrushed the Patriots 234-64.
- Patriots had four turnovers.
- Ravens got off to fast start with 83-yard TD on first play
The New England Patriots are 7-1 against Tennessee. The only win for the Titans came on December 16. 2002 in their first-ever meeting in Nashville. The Titans won 24-7.
The last time the Titans played the Patriots in the postseason was in January 2004. Patriots’ Kicker Adam Vinatieri gave New England the win with a 46-yard field goal with less than five minutes left for a 17-14 win. Another note about that game – it was the coldest game in Patriots’ history (4 degrees with minus 10 degree wind chill at kickoff). This Saturday’s forecast predicts a rainy day with temps around 19 at kickoff.
Most of the football world expects the New England Patriots to easily dispatch of the Tennessee Titans and continue toward another Super Bowl trophy. All signs point to that. Every NFL expert gives the Patriots the green light this weekend. Funny thing about the game of football, it’s not played with a round ball. It bounces funny (even without deflate gate issues). These are the kinds of games that set the stage for the term “upset”. No one expects. Patriot-haters secretly hope for it.
If there’s one thing I have learned in all the years of watching football is that you can never assume anything. Just when you think you have it figured out, something happens. This could either be the biggest upset in the NFL playoffs in recent years or the Patriots will do exactly what everyone expects to happen.
You’re playing against Brady in Bah-ston, Titans have no chance right?