By: Russ Goldman
It is the beginning of a new season, and it starts on Sunday as the Patriots are on the road to face the Tennessee Titans. Here’s a preview with my five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory.
WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live Sunday on WBZ-TV at 1:00 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
GAME NOTES: The Titans had a good season in 2011 season going 9-7, and ending up second in the AFC South. They have a decent chance to end up second in their division again this season, and maybe make things a little uncomfortable for the Houston Texans who should win the division.
On defense, this team has players you should be watching for on Sunday. On the defensive line, Kamerion Wimbley has been added this season, and he does have the ability to get after the quarterback.
Middle Linebacker Colin McCarthy is another player that could have an impact in this game as he plays right in the heart of the defense. However, a weakness of this unit could be their secondary where cornerback Cortland Finnegan has left. The safeties are good as they have Michael Griffin, and Jordan Babineaux, but overall the secondary could be a part of the Titans defense that the Patriots could try to exploit.
On offense, the big question will be the play of second year quarterback Jake Locker who won the job this pre-season over Matt Hasselbeck. He will be asked to run the offense this season for the Titans, and we should get an indication on Sunday if he is actually ready for the job.
The X-Factor in this game could be running Chris Johnson as he had an average season last year by his standards. I expect to see him get the ball often in running and catching the ball.
The Titans do have a significant loss in this game as wide receiver Kenny Britt is suspended. However, I would expect to see tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Kendall Wright be factors in the passing game for the Titans.
The Titans are home, and are a tougher opponent than some might think. However, I think the Patriots offense will eventually take over this game in the second half, and lead the team to a victory.
Here are my “five keys” which I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.
1. The Patriots tight ends will need to play multiple roles well on Sunday. We all know how important tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are in the passing game for the Patriots. However, Gronkowski could be asked often to help left tackle Nate Solder in pass protection during this game.
You could also see both being factors blocking in the running game. The tight ends in this match-up need to play well in every facet of their job.
2. The “no huddle” should be used when needed to set tempo and help with pass protection. One of the ways I noticed last season that helped the offensive line in pass protection was the “no huddle”. This style of offense does wear down a defense, and the pass rush over time could be lessened just by calling plays at the line.
The “no huddle” can also establish a real good flow to the offense, and force the defense to play more in their base. This style could have two huge positive affects for the Patriots on Sunday.
3. The Patriots need to stop the run on defense, and make Jake Locker beat them. The Patriots will be facing one of the best running backs in the game with Johnson. If you can contain him, and force the ball more in the hands of Locker, it could end up being a recipe for success. Limiting the touches for Johnson and his yards, should seriously sway the advantage to the Patriots defense.
4. The Patriots front seven needs to play a disciplined game against Jake Locker. The Titans quarterback can make plays with his arm, but also his legs with running the ball. This situation for the defense could be similar to playing against Tim Tebow.
The front seven needs to stay in their lanes when rushing the quarterback, and not let him break out of the pocket. He could make some plays in the pocket, but he could be more dangerous when he gets outside, and becomes a dual threat.
5. Chandler Jones needs to not only get after the quarterback but set the edge against the run. Jones has shown already the ability to get after the quarterback, but I think it is vital that he can also set the edge, and force Johnson back to the middle of the defensive line. Jones could be a huge factor in this game if he can do both tasks I just mentioned.
I am feeling confident that the Patriots can start the season with a victory, but it could be a struggle in the first half. If the offense can establish themselves by early in the second half, I could see the Patriots start to pull away. I am predicting the Patriots will win this game 31-20 against the Titans.
What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.
Also, please feel free to listen to a preview of the upcoming game from the radio show Patriots Fourth And Two.