Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 9/8/12

The 2012 Patriots regular season starts today, and another playoff run is back in focus. Bill Belichick is trying to get his players to lose the Super Bowl hangover and drink the kool aid once again. The 2012 preseason has brought many questions - the release of Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch and Donte Stallworth leaves huge gaps to fill. The offensive line has been worked over in the preseason with not very good results. The sophomore running backs need to step up, but can Shane Vereen stay healthy? The young defense has shown flashes, and that hope may have to fill some voids by the offense.

  60 Max's key pressure points

Tom and the tight ends: We don't know how the Brandon Lloyd connection will work, or how productive the two will be. That being said, it's the Tom and the tight ends show. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will have to up their game even further for the offense. To date, Wes Welker is the only proven receiver in this offense, that's shining the light on the two high priced stats to earn their dough.

Rush to judgment: Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden - Forget Vereen; until he can prove he can stay healthy, he's a non-factor. Ridley is the starter, but if he can't pass protect for Brady, Bolden will replace him on passing downs. That’s a bad thing as Bolden had a strong training camp catching the ball. Ridley will still be the main mail carrier, but Bolden could take that spot  if Ridley shows any of his 2011 fumblitis.

Rush hour traffic: Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower- The two first round defensive picks acquitted themselves nicely in the preseason. Jones showed the talent that was supposed to develop down the line, and is ready to start right now. Hightower is the second coming of Jerod Mayo. He can play inside or outside, and intricate knowledge of the defense will have him on the field as much as Mayo.

Cornering the market: Ras-I Dowling - The second year corner has a chance to lock a starter’s job down. After a hip injury sidelined him after two games into 2011, Dowling will have to fight off tough Kyle Arrington for the number two corner spot. Dowling doesn't fit the slot, so it's frontline or bust line for the kid.

Safety first:  Steve Gregory - The former San Diego Charger comes into the Patriots secondary as probably the best ballhawk that they have had in a long time. Gregory had a great preseason, and in Patriots practices, made a habit of picking off whoever was quarterbacking, including Brady.

Protecting the franchise: Patriots offensive line - it's been well documented, it's been on close watch, and now it's time to find out if Matt Light's retirement really upset the apple cart, or just got it stuck in traffic. Sebastian Vollmer is a huge question mark, but a major upgrade from Marcus Cannon. The Brian Waters watch seems to be over, forcing Dan Connolly to move to guard. Ryan Wendell will man the center position, not an over-worry here; Wendell played well in spot duty in 2011. Nate Solder will have every eye in New England on him protecting Brady's blindsided, and if he fails, don't be surprised if Logan Mankins slides over and picks up the slack.

Key New England offensive player: Brandon Lloyd - he was brought in to add octane to the New England precision, but hasn't had much success so far.

Key New England defensive player: Chandler Jones - He's going to have a lot of responsibility and the pass rush starts and stops with him.

Key Tennessee offensive player: Chris Johnson - If he gets loose and can find holes, it will be a long afternoon for the Patriots defense.

Key Tennessee defensive player:  Derek Morgan, DL - he had 20 pressures in 2011, however only 2 sacks. He’s very good with a speed rush and could give the offensive tackles trouble.


Three and out
  • Wonder twin powers activate - The McCourty twins square off against each other for the first time in their NFL careers. Jason and Devin add a new wrinkle to the sibling rivalry. “It's going to be enjoyable. He's already talking a bit of trash,” Jason said.
  • Eight is enough? The Patriots have won 8 straight opening games, the last being the debacle in Buffalo, a big 'the sky is falling' loss led by castoffs Drew Bledsoe and Lawyer Milloy. Turned out to be much ado about nothing - Patriots won the Super Bowl that year.
  • The young and the restless - The Patriots and Titans have an almost identical average team age; the Patriots rank 9th at 25.81 with the Titans fllowing a close 10th at 25.85


For Degenerate Gamblers Only

Odds: The Patriots are a mere 5.5 pt favorites going into Tennessee. O/U: 47

  • Patriots are 49-24-3 against the spread in their last 76 on the road. Titans just 2-5 against the spread in their last seven at home.
  • Over looks to be the best bet with the Pats going over 28 of its last 38 games, including four straight on the road.

Strangers in our midst: Offciating this game? Jerry Frump and crew: No worries folks; Jerry is a two-time scab, officiating games during the NFL refs strike of 2001. The 14-year ref has experience; one of the better replacements we're supposing.

Weather: Sunny 75, wind: NW @ 6mph

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Martellus Bennett compared Jay Cutler to Jesus

Jimmy Johnson thinks 49ers need to move on from Colin Kaepernick

Pat Murphy won't be back as Padres manager next year

Brian Cushing's wife gets upset with Houston talk show host

Marshawn Lynch won't play against Lions on MNF

DeMarco Murray unhappy with role in Eagles' offense


Big 12 admits officiating error in Oklah St-K State game

George Karl apologized to DeMarcus Cousins for trade comment

Jason Whitlock, ESPN part ways again

Devonta Freeman is scoring touchdowns at a historic rate

Joe Philbin not worried about being fired

NFL deciding how to share random PSI data during season

WATCH: Adrian Peterson torches Broncos for marathon touchdown

Don Orsillo gives moving farewell to Red Sox fans on NESN

WATCH: Ichiro Suzuki takes the mound for the Marlins

Clay Matthews taunts Kaepernick with Russell Wilson line

Jay Feely shares thoughts on why NFL kickers are struggling

Female reporters blocked from entering NFL locker room

Pierre Garcon makes awesome game-winning TD catch

WATCH: Mario Williams obliterates Rashad Jennings

WATCH: Ed Dickson scores TD on crazy fumble recovery

WATCH: Nelson Agholor makes incredible one-handed catch

London PR guy has hilarious reaction to angry Suh

Former LSU staffer had championship rings stolen from home

Giants LB Devon Kennard makes incredible interception

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Jimmy Johnson: Move on from Kaepernick

WATCH: Ichiro Suzuki pitches for the Marlins

Philbin not worried about job status

London PR guy trolls Suh

10 takeaways from Week 5 of the college football season

Rick Pitino and the shadows that never leave

Chad Johnson ... Steelers kicker?

Flacco deserves more from the Ravens

Time for Neymar's Barcelona

Seth Rollins, WWE depth, Divas and winning

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker