The NFL Wild Card round kicks off on Saturday, Jan. 4 and the Tennessee Titans (9-7) travel to Foxborough to tackle the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots (12-4) in an opening round AFC matchup.
The Patriots have been in the playoffs every year since 2009, but this is the first time playing in the Wild Card round. New England beat Tennessee in the 2018 divisional round 35-14.
You’ll find information below with our selections for the moneyline, spread and over/under between the Titans and Patriots. A betting breakdown will include a “pick” or “lean” with confidence based on a variety of factors. Those include the betting line, market moves, injuries, situational and statistical evaluation along with current form, preparation, performance and ATS situations. We’ll also include a prop bet of interest at DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.
You can also read my Wild Card football preview and prediction at TheLines between the Titans and Patriots. Additional match-up information, odds and analysis and a betting breakdown with stats, tips and trends to consider when wagering on the Titans and Patriots Wild Card playoff game.
The point spread is holding steady at the opening number with the New England a 4.5-point favorite and total of 43.5. The Patriots domination in the playoffs is well documented, and New England has won nine straight home playoff games since 2013. The Patriots have also scored at least 24 points in each of those nine games, but the current offense is average at 354 yards per game and sub-par 5.2 yards per play. Following an 8-0 start against a soft schedule, the Patriots finished 4-4 losing to three AFC playoff teams and also the defenseless Dolphins in the season finale that cost New England a first round bye.
The Titans enter with confidence and momentum under QB Ryan Tannehill, who since taking over the starting job in Week 7 has led the league in QB rating, yards per pass attempt and completion. His favorite target has been rookie A.J. Brown, who eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards and averaged 100 yards per game over the last six contests with six TD receptions. Brown will draw the attention of Patriots cover specialist Stephon Gilmore, who leads a special secondary and pass defense that ranks No. 1 in the league in yards per game, touchdowns and pass rating. The Patriots defense also led the league in scoring defense (14 PPG) and yards allowed (276/game), and were No. 2 in takeaways.
But the Titans balance on offense will be key, as the running game is strong led the league’s top rusher Derrick Henry (1,540 yards, 16 TDs). The Titans will rely heavily on Henry, as the offensive line allowed 56 sacks to rank No. 30 in pass protection and the Patriots defensive front is top-8 in both sacks and quarterback pressure. But after watching the Dolphins and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick pick apart the Patriots last week with 320 passing yards and a 99.6 passer rating, the Titans will feel confident they can control the ball, clock and chains enough to move the ball and score.
Despite the Patriots playoff performances and current 19-2 SU record in their last 21 home games overall, we side with the Titans.
The Pick: Titans +4.5 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
If you bet the Titans to cover the 4.5-point spread, your confidence should continue with a portion of your wager on the moneyline with +196 the best price at FanDuel Sportsbook. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel won three Super Bowl rings playing for the Patriots under coach Bill Belichick and understands the New England systems and preparation needed to have the Titans prepared for this tough road game. The Patriots lost two home games in December to the Dolphins and Chiefs, and recall the Titans beat the Chiefs in Nashville 35-32 in November with 225 rushing yards despite just 22 minutes of possession on offense. The Kansas City Chiefs have won six straight games since that defeat.
The Pick: Titans +196 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
The 43.5-point total is reflecting the Patriots’ No. 1 defense and Football Outsiders DVOA rank of No. 1 against the pass and No. 7 against the run. The Titans DVOA ranks No. 20 against the pass and No. 6 against the run.
The Titans faced stronger offensive teams than the Patriots in recent weeks against the Saints and Texans, and also the Chiefs in November. Each of the last nine Titans games has gone over this posted total of 43.5. Against a similar stats offense as New England, the Titans allowed the Colts 391 yards at 5.8 yards per play in Week 13 at Indianapolis. But just 82 yards were rushing. The Titans defense made some game-changing plays in the fourth quarter of a tie game to win 31-17.
The Patriots have turned to Sony Michel more down the stretch and have rushed for at least 130 yards in four of their last five games after eclipsing that rushing total just one in their first 12 games. The added balance will benefit QB Tom Brady to attack the Titans weakness and 31st rank red zone defense in touchdown rate. With the Patriots defense showing some vulnerability last week against Miami, both teams may create a little more scoring than expected. Watch the weather reports as mid 40’s temperatures and a 60% chance of precipitation with possible drizzle and flurries could worsen and drop the total.
The Lean: Over 43.5 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
Best Prop Bet
The margin of victory props are not optimal bets, but a potential Titans win is likely to have more scoring. The Titans are playing their best ball since the Nov. 10 win over Kansas City with Tennessee scoring at least 28 points in six of seven games including at least 31 points in three straight road games. Tougher test at New England, but let’s combine a Titans win and more scoring in a prop bet.
This article was originally published on Tuesday. Lines subject to change.