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Forget the Titans. They have no chance vs. the Patriots

The Titans lost three of their last four regular-season games and were outscored by opponents this season. Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

And so the Patriots get back-to-back bye weeks. Think of Saturday’s Titans game as a playoff layoff.


It’s hard to know where to start with the compulsory trashing of the not-ready-for-prime-time Tennessee Titans.

Let’s acknowledge up front that the Titans are professional football players who have achieved much by advancing to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. Nashville is one great town and the Titans are an estimable organization. They almost won a Super Bowl in 2000, and they threw a big scare into New England’s Super Bowl champs on a cold night in Foxborough back in January of 2004.


All that said, let’s cut to the chase and call this what it is. The Titans are a joke and have no business making the trek to Foxborough for a divisional playoff game Saturday night. These Titans are accidental tourists in the 2017-18 NFL tournament. They are 13-point underdogs. They have absolutely zero chance to beat the Patriots Saturday night.

I wrote this last year. I write this every year. Because nothing ever changes. Since 2011, the Patriots in the divisional round have played four of the worst playoff teams in NFL history: the 2011 Broncos (45-10; hello, Tim Tebow), the 2013 Colts (43-22), last year’s Texans (34-16; hi, Brock Osweiler), and this year’s Titans. Wow. What a lineup. The Mount Rushmore of Playoff Chumps.

Last year I wrote that the Texans were the Chuck Wepner/Randall “Tex” Cobb/Peter McNeeley of NFL playoff teams. They were Tomato Cans Sui Generis, Tomato Cans Di Tutti, the Houston Warhols.

These Titans might be worse than those Texans. These Titans trailed the Kansas City Chiefs, 21-3, last Saturday before coming back for the franchise’s first playoff win in 14 years. They have a quarterback (Marcus Mariota) who threw more interceptions than touchdown passes this year (passer rating 79.3). They ranked in the bottom third of the league in turnover differential. They ranked 23rd in total offense and 17th in points allowed. They lost three of their last four regular-season games.


The Titans were outscored by their opponents this season (356-334). Got that? By definition, you can be good in sports only if you score more points than the other team. And now the Patriots have a playoff opponent that surrendered more points than it scored during the season.

Tennessee coach Mike Mularkey is a lock to be intimidated by Bill Belichick. Mularkey is 0-6 lifetime against the Hoodie. By his own admission, he was on the verge of being fired last weekend (and replaced by Josh McDaniels?) before the big comeback against Andy Reid’s Chiefs. When Mularkey was asked if he felt safe before that game, he answered, “No, I haven’t had any support to say that I was. So no. I just assumed the worst.’’

And we are expecting these guys to compete in New England Saturday?

The Titans’ defensive coordinator is Dick LeBeau. I loved LeBeau back in the 1960s when he was intercepting passes for the Detroit Lions. He is a legit Hall of Famer. But he is also one of those guys Belichick worships, then abuses every time they meet (remember Jack Del Rio, Wade Phillips, Greg Schiano?). When LeBeau was D-coordinator for the Steelers, the Patriots averaged 32 points per game vs. Pittsburgh and Brady threw 19 touchdowns with three interceptions. LeBeau is a Belichick pushover.


The Titans like to blitz. The Patriots kill teams that blitz.

The Titans like to establish the run. The Patriots kill teams that try to establish the run.

Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan did a good job sticking up for his quarterback and his team when speaking with The Tennessean after Saturday’s win: “It’s time for you guys to start backing him [Mariota]. I don’t know if it’s just Nashville or if it’s all over the place, but you guys can really crucify us sometimes.’’

Sorry, Taylor. But if you think things are rough with the media in Nashville, please cover your eyes and ears over the next few days. It might get loud.

Frankly, I liked the Titans better when they were the Houston Oilers with those great derrick-logo helmets in the early days of the AFL. I liked them when they came to Foxborough in 1978 with Earl Campbell toting the rock and Oail Andrew “Bum” Phillips making the calls from the sideline.

The Oilers were fun and competitive when they were coached by Bum.

Forty years later, the grandsons of Bum’s Oilers are back in Foxborough. And now they are just bums — a speed bump on the Patriots’ road to Minneapolis.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy.