Christmas came early this year, folks. Denver and Cincinnati (predictably) lost big games this past weekend, and in the process coughed up the first two seeds in the AFC. Denver now has to face a hot Pittsburgh team on the road and Cincy will likely be without QB Andy Dalton for the rest of the season. Our Pats had a huge bounce back week and pummeled the Texans, thanks to a stifling defensive effort and the return of Rob Gronkowski. This weekend, the Pats get to host another lowly AFC South representative, the 3-10 Tennessee Titans. Let’s take it around the table and see what the BBS Staff thinks…
Tom Brady: Over/Under 300 yards passing?
Niko: OVER. Tennessee’s banged up secondary shouldn’t offer much resistance. I see the offense really clicking. Hopefully Tom can get the LaFells and Chandlers of the world going here to work up some momentum for January.
Pete: This one is kind of a toss up for me. Yes, the Tennessee defense is banged up/horrible, but if the Patriots get up early in this game, I think that there is a chance that he sits this one down and lets Jimmy G get some reps. Brady won't do it willingly, but with him being under the weather, if a victory is clear, I hope they rest him. Nevertheless, OVER.
Brandon Bolden: Over/Under 54 yards rushing?
Niko: Call me crazy, but I’m not phased by the injury to Blount. I think Bolden can do most, if not all of what Blount can do. He’s more explosive to the hole, and more dynamic out of the backfield as a receiver. My one worry is the trickle down effect on special teams, where Bolden is most valuable. I’ll go OVER here. Fantasy football players; don’t be afraid to use Bolden in your playoff matchups this weekend.
Pete: I love Brandon Bolden. I know that many people use him as a punchline, but the dude has competed since the day he got here. He plays most areas of special teams, and has always been ready if his number is called. He is somewhat similar to Blount, as he is a bigger guy than Lewis and White, but he also possesses the ability to make that first guy miss on occasion. OVER.
James White: Over/Under 54 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: First off, that was a catch. Second off, sans Lewis and Blount, White needs to and will continue to improve and get more and more involved. OVER here, mostly through the air.
Pete: In the past couple of weeks, White has been off the charts when his number is called. To be honest, I am kind of wondering why the Pats don't use him more than they already do. He may not be a great runner, but he is comparable to Vereen in his ability to catch out of the backfield. OVER.
Rob Gronkowski: Over/Under 5.5 catches, 85 receiving yards?
Niko: I’m actually going to go UNDER here on both for Gronk. He’ll do major damage early, but once the game is in hand, hopefully (keeping health in mind) he takes a back seat to Chandler and/or Asante Cleveland.
Pete: With another week under his belt, hopefully we see a little bit more of Gronk as he nurses his way back to 100%. To be effective, the Patriots need to throw to Gronk consistently. No matter how much we think this offense can plug anyone in, if Gronk goes down again, so does this team's championships aspirations. UNDER on catches, OVER on yards. He will rip a long one off again.
Danny Amendola: Over/Under 6.5 catches, 62 receiving yards?
Niko: UNDER. See above.
Pete: Similar to Gronk, I don't think that Amendola has been 100% since returning from a knee injury. Nevertheless, Danny A has toughed it out and shown us what it means to be a Patriot. OVER.
Brandon LaFell: Over/Under 4.5 catches, 59 receiving yards?
Niko: To put it (very) lightly, JoJo hasn’t been good this season. At all. Whether the numerous drops, or simply not being on the same page as Brady, it has been a huge step back for LaFell in 2015. Good news, he still has time. Bad news, not much. I’ll go OVER on both here. Hoping….Praying…
Pete: I am so done with JoJo. UNDER.
Marcus Mariota: Over/Under 250 yards passing?
Niko: Have to go UNDER here for the promising young rookie. He’s had flashes of brilliance this season but I don’t think he’ll have much success at all against this Pats D. Ryan and Butler are playing as well as any cornerback duo in the NFL.
Pete: Surprisingly, the way to render Mariota ineffective is to make him be an actual quarterback. Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, and the rest of the defensive line need to collapse the pocket and make sure he doesn't have room to run outside. If they can take Mariota's feet out of the equation and make him a true pocket passer, then this will be an even longer game for the Titans. UNDER.
Antonio Andrews/David Cobb: Over/Under combined 70 yards rushing?
Niko: UNDER here again. Even with the expected absence of middle linebacker/force Dont’a Hightower, I can’t see these guys establishing the run.
Pete: See above.
Dorial Green Beckham: Over/Under 4.5 catches, 55 receiving yards?
Niko: I’ll go UNDER on catches here, but I think the 6’5 240 pound Beckham hits the OVER on the yards mark. He’s talented, but hasn’t been able to put together consistent performances week in and week out. I would expect Ryan to keep him at bay for the most part.
Pete: When I was making my big board for the Pats last offseason, this guy was on it. If it wasn't for his off the field issues, he would have been one of the most sought after rookies in the draft. Beckham isn't going to have a career day for the Titans, but because of his size, and the absence of McCourty, I wouldn't be surprised if we hear his number a couple times on Sunday. UNDER.
Harry Douglas: Over/Under 3.5 catches, 35 receiving yards?
Niko: Douglas has played the slot pretty well in the absence of Kendall Wright, especially recently (3 catches, 65 yards last week vs. Jets). He’ll get a bunch of targets and it won’t be efficient, but I’ll go OVER on both here.
Pete: Last week, we saw Leonard Johnson and his ridiculous dance moves in full against a much better receiving core. Johnson will likely be on Douglas in the slot, and, as Pats fan, you have to like those chances. UNDER.
Delanie Walker: Over/Under 6.5 catches, 75 receiving yards?
Niko: Walker is an absolute stud. Gronk aside, I don’t know if there is a better receiving tight end in the NFL. I’ll say UNDER on catches, but OVER on yards here. I expect Chung and Collins to get the brunt of work, but not sure either will be able to completely neutralize him.
Pete: With Collins back and hopefully regaining some strength, I expect him to be on Walker for a good chunk of this game. Again, as a Pats fine, you have to love those odds. Collins is hit or miss in coverage, so I expect Walker to get his catches and yards tomorrow. UNDER, but barely.
Niko: Titan defensive lineman Jurrell Casey is a beast. At 6’1 305, Casey relies on his explosive burst and low center of gravity to get into the offensive backfield and disrupt plays. He is a quality run defender, but also effectively rushes the passer (6 sacks this season) as well. Offensive line coach Dave DeGugliemo will have to give Jurrell different looks and keep him out of his comfort zone in order to establish the run and keep Brady upright.
Pete: Patriots Vs. Health. For some reason, the Injury Bug has shacked up at 1 Patriot Place early this season and hasn't been kicked out yet. The Patriots could throw their Practice Squad team out there and still beat the Titans. Show up, take care of business, and don't be stupid. Simple.
Niko: Not sure how bold this is after Sunday night’s game, but I’ll go with Jabaal Sheard to have another big one. When healthy, I truly think Sheard (10 games: 6 sacks, 3 forced fumbles) has been the most effective Patriots’ edge rusher this season (yes, including Chandler Jones). Another two sacks for Jabaal this weekend.
Pete: I think the Patriots defensive line is going to give Marcus Mariota and the Titans' offense absolute fits. After last week, you have to think that the Patriots' defense is their most effective group on the field every week. I will go really bold and say that the Patriots pitch a shutout.
Game Total: Over/Under 47 points?
Niko: The Titans just gave up 30 points to the Jets, and Brady has always had success against defense coordinator Dick LeBeau since back in his Pittsburgh days. I’ll go OVER, I don’t think Tennessee will offer much resistance against Brady, Gronk and company.
Pete: Well, sticking with my bold prediction, I think it will be difficult for the Pats to score 47 points tomorrow. UNDER.
Niko: 38-17 Patriots. Tennessee is more concerned with locking up the #1 pick than defeating the #1 seed. The F U Tour ramps up, Winter is Coming.
Pete: 31-0 Patriots. Its going to be a blood bath.