Patriots

What NFL experts are predicting for Sunday’s Patriots-Titans game

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks on against the Atlanta Falcons. Brynn Anderson/AP Photo

Maybe the Buffalo Bills re-discovered their offensive firepower Thursday night in beating the New Orleans Saints, 31-6. 

Then again, in addition to his four touchdown passes, Josh Allen threw two picks, and the Bills lost Tre’Davious White to injury. Buffalo finally got some semblance of a balanced attack, yet Devin Singletary and Matt Breida (both averaged only 2.9 yards per carry Thursday night) aren’t exactly overly dependable resources in the backfield. 

Yet the win was enough to pull the 7-4 Bills back into a first-place tie with the Patriots in the AFC East. Should the Patriots beat the Titans Sunday at Gillette, they will once again pick up a half-game lead. 

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With their first divisional showdown finally looming next week. 

Indeed, for all the arguments about the Patriots’ strength of schedule, the most pivotal stretch of the year has finally arrived. One against the Titans. Two against Buffalo. One against the Colts. If the Patriots can maintain their winning ways, they’ll wind up with the top slot in the AFC. 

If they go 2-2 over the stretch, it’s less sexy, but just as effective in landing a playoff slot. 

Here’s where the fun begins. 

This week’s predictions:

Globe staff: Five out of six (Nicole Yang) like Tennessee (+6.5). 

Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times: Patriots 23, Titans 21. “We’re seeing how much Tennessee misses Derrick Henry, and the Titans need a banged-up A.J. Brown on the field. New England is playing as well as anybody in the league and it’s at home this week.” 

Joe Giglio, NJ.com: Titans (+5.5). “Overreaction! Overreaction! Sure, the Patriots look better than the Titans. But this number is based more on last week than the overall strengths of each team. This will be close, so I’ll take the 5.5 points.”

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Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 20, Titans 17. “The Titans looked awful in losing at home to the Texans last week and now must play a big AFC road game against the Patriots. New England has been playing great defense, which will again be the case here. This should be an ugly, low-scoring game, with the Patriots pulling it out with a late field goal but the Titans hanging around.”

Will Brinson, CBS Sports: Patriots 35, Titans 10. “This is such a spicy game. The Titans have losses against the Jets and Texans (it’s hard to even read out loud) bookend wins against the Chiefs, Bills, Saints and Rams. Figure that out. I don’t think it applies here, because Bill Belichick is out for vengeance. He’s REAL quiet right now and his team is rolling. The Pats have found their identity — efficient play from a clutch young quarterback with a great run game and a sneaky defense — and when that happens the AFC is usually in big, big trouble. The line has gotten a little out of hand here. I probably wouldn’t bet Pats -7 but I did bet Pats -5.5 a lot when it landed. I think New England comes out to issue a statement here relating to their seeding intentions in the AFC. Belichick knows there are two weeks before his bye and he has Tennessee and Buffalo on the schedule. Go 1-0 twice and everything is front of you.”

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Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: Tennessee (+6.5). “Are the Titans bad now, or did they have a bad week? That is the question. I think the answer is much closer to the latter than the former. Football seasons are long. Sometimes you fall flat on your face at home to David Culley’s Texans. These things happen. I kind of like the idea of the Patriots winning a close one here. Asking them to beat the top team in the conference by a touchdown is a tall order.”

Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Patriots (-6). “After starting 2-4, the Patri*ts are the hottest team in the NFL, as they have won five straight by a combined score of 175-50. They now have the best point differential in the league, at +123.”

ESPN staff: Eight out of nine (Seth Wickersham) pick the Pats. 

Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports: Patriots (-6.5). “The Titans’ loss to the Texans let everyone know that Tennessee’s great start to this season wasn’t going to continue. That’s why you see a spread that is a little higher than it should be. Even though it’s inflated, I don’t know how this limited Titans offense scores enough to cover. The Patriots defense is playing really well.”

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 24, Titans 10. “The Patriots are putting it all together with their defense, special teams, running game and now more from rookie Mac Jones in an efficient downfield passing game. Bill Belchick has been foiled by his former linebacker Mike Vrabel’s team in big spots but Vrabel is dealing with a shorthanded deck, making their once explosive offense easy to defend while they remain a lot of key fundamental holes in the defense. Ryan Tannehill was burned plenty by Belichick in AFC East play and his sudden Henry-less slump doesn’t bode well to put up more points than Jones does.”

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Bill Bender, Sporting News: Patriots 24, Titans 19. “This line seems high given the Titans’ spot in the AFC ranks, but it’s a nod to the Patriots’ lights-out play with rookie quarterback Mac Jones. Mike Vrabel has led Tennessee to victories against the Patriots in the last two meetings, too. That said, we’re going to trust the Patriots’ defense at home, where they have allowed just 10 ppg. in their last two.”

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 27, Titans 20. “The Patriots quietly have been putting together a great season. It stops being quiet on Sunday.”

Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 24, Titans 23. “It’s amazing how quickly perceptions have changed around these two teams that the Patriots are now favored. I think the Titans are a lot better than they looked on Sunday, but I like New England to win a close one.” 

FiveThirtyEight: Patriots, 59 percent (-2.5). 

Gregg Rosenthal. NFL.com: Patriots 23, Titans 14. “The Patriots are on quite a streak of excellence and fortune. They keep catching teams at the right time, with Titans receiver Marcus Johnson now out for the season, just as he was starting to produce. A.J. Brown‘s status is also uncertain, and he is so vital to this Titans offense. The big, bad Tennessee defensive line is too good to dismiss, but I like the chances of a cohesive Patriots defense forcing Ryan Tannehill to beat them without a lot of help from his running game or a sneaky bad offensive line.”

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NFL Pickwatch: Eighty-five percent Patriots. 

It says here: Patriots 20, Titans 18. Just a reminder that the Titans have managed to lose to both the Jets and the Texans.

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