by Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff
October 16, 2009
In this week’s dangerous and not to be overlooked game, the Patriots welcome a winless Tennessee Titans team. The Titans were 13-3 last year and were supposed to be a playoff contender again. There is a tendency to overlook hapless teams and assume that they have mailed in their whole season as a result of poor starts. There is no point in playing the role of Goliath. That being said, this is more a disclaimer to fans, as the Patriots rarely take wins for granted. If the Patriots get the upper hand in the five matches listed below, it should make for a fourth straight home win.
1) Tom Brady Vs. Himself
It’s clear that Tom is not the same Tom Terrific of old. Last week against the Broncos, it was he who put on a traditional Kyle Orton performance while the Broncos QB looked like the Tom Brady of old. It takes a while to come back from a major injury; just ask Peyton Manning, who after having knee surgery in 2008 started the next season 3-2 and then lost 2 more before winning 9 straight. Also, keep in mind that comebacks are not smooth, and some days Tom will play better then others. He had an awful game against the Jets, but showed signs of improvement in the Falcons game. What is clearly missing from his game is the long ball, and once Tom figures out how to stop overthrowing Randy Moss, the rest of the pieces will fall into place. Until that happens, they will continue to sputter along with good and bad days mixed in together. Hopefully, this is the week that Tom Brady starts to extend the field vertically.
2) Titans Running Backs Vs. Patriots Linebackers
Chris Johnson and LenDale White are very good backs and the Patriots will focus on preventing them from having great games. Despite getting eviscerated by Fred Jackson in Week 1, the Patriots have been playing decent run defense as of late. Fans are glad to see Jerod Mayo come back, and he will surely figure into more defensive schemes in his second week back. If the Patriots are able to prevent the Titans running game from eating up too much yardage, it will be a long day for Tennessee up in Foxboro.
3) Patriots Pass Rush Vs. Titans O-line
Last week against the Broncos, the Patriots couldn’t create a sustainable rush. Kyle Orton’s ability to quickly adjust to defensive schemes and accurately throw the short route didn’t give the Patriots rushers much of a chance. This was disappointing considering how well they accomplished that against Joe Flacco, who was frazzled throughout much of the day. Look for the Patriots to bring in some new wrinkles to disrupt Kerry Collins rhythm.
4) Sebastian Vollmer Vs. Titans Pass Rush
Matt Light was out of practice on Thursday as a result of his knee injury sustained last week. Sebastian Vollmer, a Logan Mankins-like pick in this year’s draft (that Mel Kiper thought was a significant reach), was a fan favorite this preseason. However, as soon as he came in late in the Broncos game, the Patriots ran the ball several times in a row. Does this signal a lack of confidence in Vollmer’s abilities? It will be intriguing to find out this week against the Titans.
5) Alge Crumpler vs. Patriot Safeties
Brandon Meriweather and Brandon McGowan have been playing surprisingly well this year. Look for them to shutdown yet another top-tier tight end.