Know The Opponent: Tennessee Titans

Following the week 9 clash of the Titans in which the Patriots beat the Green Bay Packers 31-17, the Patriots must now focus on playing some familiar faces.  And as the great John Denver once sang “I’m leaving on a jet plane, and don’t know when I’ll be back again.”  After the Patriots week 10 matchup against the Tennessee Titans, they’ll have they’re long awaited bye week.  But first, the Patriots must go on the road to play former linebacker Mike Vrabel’s top defense.  Here is a recap of the 4-4 Tennessee Titans.

Tennessee’s Defense Is Legit

Tennessee Titans, Know The Opponent: Tennessee TitansThey’re top 10 in nearly every major category for the exception of rushing yards allowed per game.  However; this defense has allowed the fewest points overall and fewest points per game in the NFL.  The most points they’ve given up all season, was 23 to the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles on the road.

Boasting one of the best front seven’s in football, this is going to be a tough game for New England.  With the likes of Jurrell Casey Daquon Jones on the D-Line.  And linebackers like Harold Landry, Jayon Brown, and Wesley Woodyard, good luck with any underneath passing game.  So just when you think you might be able to get yards through the air, you have to deal with Malcolm Butler and Adoree’ Jackson.  And let’s not forget what the Patriots did to Butler in the Super Bowl.  Furthermore, this defense has Logan Ryan, another former Patriot that knows Belichick’s defensive scheme.

However; Malcolm Butler has had quite the down year.  This season, Butler has allowed 39 catches on 54 targets for 618 yards and seven touchdowns.  Butler has looked awful all year and pro football focus ranks him as the 98th ranked DB in the NFL.  Look for the Patriots to try and exploit that.  But this will all come down to if Tight End Rob Grownkowski can play and how much.  This could be a good game for Gronk to establish his dominance.

Furthermore, with the slew of questions the Patriots have at running back, don’t expect them to be all the successful on the ground.  And with the aggressive front seven of Tennessee, look for them to try and take James White out of the picture as much as possible.  So if James White will be taken out of the picture, and if Gronk isn’t what we expect him to be, this could be another game where we look to Josh Gordon.  The Titans will look to take out Edelman, Gronk, and White which leaves either Chris Hogan or Josh Gordon to clean up.

The Titans Offense May Surprise You

Marcus Mariota hasn’t exactly lit up the scoreboard.  Or impress many fantasy owners but he gets the job done.  Completing 67% of his passes, he has a modest 1,270 yards with five TD’s and five int’s but it’s his ability to run that will give the Patriots defense fits.  Mariota has ran for 217 yards on the year and two touchdowns.  If he can break contain and run, this will keep the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands.  Drive sustainability will be key if the Titans want to win this game.

Another player to help with drive sustainability will be leading rusher and old friend Dion Lewis.  Lewis has rushed for 339 yards but only has one rushing touchdown.  He does however have 259 yards receiving and a touchdown in that category.  With the Patriots struggles in the linebacking core, look for Lewis to have a big day out of the backfield catching the ball.

Titans Injury Report*

*Reports are from Wednesday’s practice

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
LB Daren Bates – Illness
T Jack Conklin – Concussion
S Dane Cruikshank – Knee
WR Taywan Taylor – Foot

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
LB Derrick Morgan – Shoulder
WR Tajae Sharpe – Ankle

FULL PARTICIPATION
LB Will Compton – Hamstring

The Tennessee Titans Will Win If…

They can win time of possession.  If they keep the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands, they’ll have a chance.  Three and outs will kill any team, but a Titans team that is looking to get into the postseason needs a key win.  And a win against the Patriots will help them, but only if they can score points, which has been a struggle to them.  If they can sustain drives and keep New England out of the end zone, they may pull out a win.

 

-Brian Berard (@CouchGuyBrian)

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