2018 AFC Divisional Playoffs: Three things to watch in Titans-Patriots

For the third time in four years, the Patriots are the top seed in the AFC and have homefield throughout the playoffs.

The Patriots have played in six straight AFC championship games, and it will be a tough task for the Titans to prevent New England from reaching a seventh.

The Titans (10-7) rallied from a 21-3 deficit to pull off a 22-21 wild-card win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota will have to be at his best on Saturday to beat the Patriots (13-3) at Gillette Stadium (8:15 p.m. ET, CBS).

Three things to watch in Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff

1. Will the Patriots remain focused? Quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick, as well as others, were forced to answer questions all week after ESPN reported that there was turmoil atop the organization.

Reports of discontent were quickly denied, but it would be only human nature for such a distraction to affect preparation. Still, if there’s one thing the Patriots have done better than most under Belichick, it’s quieting the noise.

2. Can Derrick Henry stay hot? The Patriots had the NFL’s 20th-ranked rush defense during the regular season, allowing a 100-yard rusher four times. The last two came in December when Miami’s Kenyan Drake and Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell joined Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt and Chargers running back Melvin Gordon as players to eclipse the century mark against the Patriots.

Henry is coming off a 156-yard effort against the Chiefs as Tennessee’s offensive line wore down the Chiefs. It was Henry’s third 100-yard game this season as he led the Titans during the regular season with 744 yards while splitting carries with DeMarco Murray. With Murray injured, Henry was the workhorse against the Chiefs and will have to carry the load again in Foxborough since Murray has been ruled out.

3. Can the Titans contain Rob Gronkowski? The Titans did not allow a tight end to have 100 receiving yards in a game this season. They were getting burned by Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce in the first half of last week’s game, which changed dramatically when Kelce was injured just before halftime. Kelce had four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

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