Titans QB is big challenge for New England

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The general belief is there are four contenders for the Super Bowl in the NFC, two in the AFC. The Patriots have suffered some serious injuries this season, but still found their way to a 13-3 record in the regular season and a first-round playoff bye. A very small part of me says that Belichick created this as extra motivation for his team, then again, they really don't need it considering they are the odds-on favorite. In Kansas City, Mariota threw a touchdown pass to himself, and late in the game he made a key block on Derrick Henry's game-clinching run. Considering what he has done with this moderately talented Titans defense, it's natural to imagine him continuing, aspire to live like him and believe he can sneak one past. Unfortunately for them, they have not been quite as successful when it comes to defending opposing arms (25th ranked passing defense). Maybe, just maybe, they can make the Pats worry.

You rarely go into Arrowhead Stadium and come back from an 18-point halftime deficit to win, as Tennessee did last weekend. While the Patriots are fully expected to run away with this one, we're going to take a look at three x-factors for their side as they push for yet another Super Bowl.

At the age of 40, Tom Brady is playing better football than a lot of quarterbacks who are half his age.

Hogan missed seven of the final eight games of the regular season with a shoulder injury, which he suffered against the Los Angeles Chargers on October 29. New England is favored by 131/2 points.

It's a process the Patriots have mastered better than perhaps any team in National Football League history, because their coach and the leaders he builds his teams around don't allow complacency to seep into the locker room. "To be able to throw the ball, have it knocked down and be able to catch it where he caught it and go in and run and score and dive.it shows his athletic ability".

Rumours of an imminent Patriots demise have been far from a rarity during New England's seemingly endless period of dominance, but they have always quickly been forgotten once Bill Belichick's men have firmly reasserted their position as the superior power in the NFL. The Titans have yet to give up 100 receiving yards to a tight end this year and if they're going to win in New England, they have to somehow limit Gronkowski's touches. This is a big mismatch heading into Saturday's tilt.

Henry is capable of wearing down a defense so the Patriots need to get bodies on him early to limit his impact. DeMarco Murray is out with a knee injury, so Henry better stay healthy because the Titans' next three leading rushers are a quarterback, cornerback and wide receiver. The longer the Titans are able to keep the Patriots off the field, the more they enhance their chances to win.

Tennessee's 22-21 wild card round win last week in Kansas City was its first postseason game of any kind since 2008 and its first playoff win since 2003, when it beat Baltimore on Gary Anderson's 48-yard field goal. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Additionally, the Patriots are 20-4 (.833) at home in the playoffs. Murray might play this week, but Henry's is clearly featured back now.

Delanie Walker is Mr. Most of the damage has been done on the edges, but teams have found running room more often than not regardless of approach in 2017. That's more such players than 11 other playoff teams combined (13). He had six touchdowns to five interceptions in December. The Patriots defense needs to focus on him to make sure that doesn't happen. Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan, who has to expose his matchup advantage over Patriots right tackle Cameron Fleming, anticipates a "chess match" between LeBeau and Belichick.