It’s a ‘Shock the World’ type of scenario on Saturday if the Tennessee Titans are able to pull off the massive upset of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
Vegas has the Titans as a 13.5 point underdog but you never know what’s going to happen until you play the game. No one is giving the two-tone blue a shot to beat Tom Brady & Co. but what would the impact be around the NFL if it does happen?
For Tennessee to win, two things are going to have to happen. First, Marcus Mariota has to be on his A-game. He’s got to play all four quarters like he did the second half of the Wild Card matchup against the Chiefs. Using his arm and his legs, connecting on downfield throws and relying on the downhill running game of Derrick Henry.
The second thing that has to happen is that New England has to make mistakes. Not often does Tom Brady turn the football over, but Titans safety Kevin Byard has to back up his trash talk this week and find a way to make it happen. Just once this season did Brady have a multi-turnover game. That was against the Dolphins on Monday Night Football in Week 14.
The only thing about that game in Miami is the Patriots didn’t have their number one weapon Rob Gronkowski. Somehow, someway, the Pats offense has to sputter throughout Saturday night and make mistakes.
If those two things were to happen, Mariota would vault himself into the conversation of being the top elite young quarterback. I’m not talking about being in the same breath of Brees, Brady, Ryan and Rodgers but he would have more playoff wins than any of the young guns. It’s shocking to hear but Marcus Mariota already has more playoff wins than Dak Prescott, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Derek Carr and Jameis Winston. By beating Tom Brady, it would be hard to argue who has led his team to more success in a short a mount of time.
Mariota has had his worst statistical year of his career but the NFL is a results based business. He’s already erased an eighteen point second half playoff lead against the Chiefs. He’s already made ‘The Highlight’ by throwing a catching his own pass for a touchdown in a crucial moment.
That’s the initial impact it would have on Marcus Mariota. I think the much bigger impact could be on the New England Patriots and that’s where this game would impact the league.
The Pats have dominated the NFL since Tom Brady replaced Drew Bledoes during the 2001 season. Could this be the final game of the Patriots dominance? With the ESPN article that was released last week revealing that owner Robert Kraft and Tom Brady have a riff between them and head coach Bill Belichick. Also reports have both current offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on the move for head coaching jobs after this season.
In the other conference game, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has tossed around the idea of retirement over the last few years. In the AFC, besides Brady and Roethlisberger, only Joe Flacco has won a Super Bowl and the only other good veteran quarterback is Phillip Rivers and he hasn’t been able to get to the big game.
The conference will eventually shift in power and it will be the young quarterbacks vying for the championships, not Brady and Roethlisberger. Maybe Mariota beating the Patriots on Saturday night is the domino that starts that power shift. We’ll find out soon enough.