Opponent: New England Patriots
Where: LP Field, Nashville
Time: Noon, CST
Point Spread (Danny Sheridans odds as published in USA Today): New England is favored by 5 with an over of 48
Key Offensive Match-up: With Titans quarterback Jake Locker making his first NFL start, all eyes will be upon him. Going against a New England team with one of the NFLs most potent offenses, the pressure will be on Locker and the Titans offense to put up points. Locker faces one of the leagues all-time great game-planners and strategists in Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Lockers ability to and success at being able to decipher the looks that Belichick throws at him and then execute upon those decisions will be critical. Fortunately for Locker, he and last years starter Matt Hasselbeck, a long-time NFL starter whom Locker beat out for the starting job in camp, have a highly cooperative relationship. Hasselbecks input in assisting Locker could help to make a difference on Sunday.
Key Defensive Match-up: In the offseason the Titans took big steps to improve their pass-rush, which was among the leagues worst in 2011, as it ranked 31st in the NFL last season in sacks. The organization hired Keith Millard as defensive assistantpass rush specialist to help improve that aspect of the game and also signed Kamerion Wimbley (16 sacks the past two seasons), a former outside linebacker in 3-4 schemes, to play defensive end. On Sunday, rookie Mike Martin out of Michigan will start at defensive tackle for inactive SenDerrick Marks with a knee injury. The Titans also will need production from the other starting defensive end, 2010 first-round pick Derrick Morgan, who had an up-and-down camp and produced one sack in three games. It almost goes without saying that the Titans cannot allow Patriots quarterback Tom Brady too much time to make his throws. If they do, he could carve them up.
Special Teams: Darius Reynaud, in his first year with the Titans and fourth in the league, takes over the punt and kickoff returning duties for former Pro-Bowler Marc Mariani, who suffered a grisly broken leg during a preseason game that ended his season. Reynaud, who spent last season with the New York Giants and the previous two with Minnesota, has returned 53 punts in his NFL career for 440 yards, an average of 8.3 yards. He also has returned 33 kickoffs for 677 yards for an average of 20.5 yards.
Inactives: For the Titans: QB Rusty Smith, RB Javon Ringer, LB Zac Diles, T Mike Otto, T Byron Stingily, DE Pannel Egboh, DT SenDerrick Marks. For the Patriots: RB Shane Vereen, DB Alfonzo Dennard, OL Nick McDonald, TE Daniel Fells, DE Jake Bequette, DE Justin Francis, DL Marcus Fortson.