Patriots Will Still Be Tested on Sunday Against 0-5 Titans FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots host the Tennessee Titans in another AFL Legacy game between a pair of teams that have some awesome throwback uniforms.

The Patriots lead the all-time series, 21-16-1, with the tie coming in 1961 at Boston University Field. The Patriots have won three consecutive meetings against the Titans, and they’ve also won three straight home games in the series. New England has a 15-6-1 home record against the Titans (and Houston Oilers), including a 2-0 mark at Gillette Stadium.

When and Where

Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009, 4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.

Records

Patriots 3-2 (1-1 AFC East)
Titans 0-5 (0-3 AFC South)

Skinny

From the Patriots’ camp, the Titans sound like the greatest 0-5 team to ever grace the gridiron. Granted, Tennessee was 13-3 last season, had the best record in the NFL and played as physical a brand of football as anyone, but there are some differences with the group this season.

“They’re way better than 0-5,” said Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. “I’m telling you this team is way better than that, and that’s one thing we’re trying to stress around here. This was a playoff team last year. It was one of the toughest teams in the league last year.

“They have a great team. We have to look past the fact that they’re 0-5. … By far, we can’t look past these guys. They shouldn’t be 0-5.”

Most notably, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz took over as the head coach of the Detroit Lions, and First Team All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth signed a $100 million contract with the Washington Redskins. The Titans lost their first three games by seven points or less, so they’ve only been a few plays away from picking up a victory, but they’ve been blown out in their last two games.

With or without the excuses, the Titans have their backs up against it, and teams without much to play for can be dangerous opponents. Naturally, there is still some talent on that roster, and Jeff Fisher is an outstanding head coach. He could elevate his team to treat this like its Super Bowl (the way the Baltimore Ravens did against the Patriots in 2007), and the Patriots could have a dogfight on their hands.

“[They are] very dangerous because you’re on alert the whole game,” Wilfork said. “We can’t fall asleep in any part of that game. All three phases, we’re going to have to do a real good job of recognizing what’s going on and adjusting to it. We understand that.”

Projected Starters

Patriots
Offense:
Quarterback: Tom Brady
Wide Receiver: Randy Moss
Wide Receiver: Wes Welker
Running Back: Sammy Morris
Tight End: Ben Watson
Tight End: Chris Baker
Left Tackle: Sebastian Vollmer
Left Guard: Logan Mankins
Center: Dan Koppen
Right Guard: Stephen Neal
Right Tackle: Nick Kaczur

Defense:
Left Defensive End: Ty Warren
Defensive Tackle: Vince Wilfork
Defensive Tackle: Mike Wright
Right Defensive End: Jarvis Green
Left Outside Linebacker: Pierre Woods
Middle Linebacker: Gary Guyton
Right Outside Linebacker: Adalius Thomas
Left Cornerback: Shawn Springs
Right Cornerback: Leigh Bodden
Strong Safety: Brandon Meriweather
Free Safety: James Sanders

Specialists:
Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski
Punter: Chris Hanson
Long Snapper: Jake Ingram
Kick Returner: Laurence Maroney
Punt Returner: Wes Welker

Titans
Offense:
Quarterback: Kerry Collins
Wide Receiver: Nate Washington
Wide Receiver: Justin Gage
Running Back: Chris Johnson
Fullback: Ahmard Hill
Tight End: Bo Scaife
Left Tackle: Michael Roos
Left Guard: Eugene Amano
Center: Kevin Mawae
Right Guard: Jake Scott
Right Tackle: David Stewart

Defense:
Left Defensive End: Jevon Kearse
Defensive Tackle: Jovan Haye
Defensive Tackle: Tony Brown
Right Defensive End: Kyle Vanden Bosch
Weak-Side Linebacker: Keith Bulluck
Middle Linebacker: Stephen Tulloch
Strong-Side Linebacker: David Thornton
Left Cornerback: Ryan Mouton
Right Cornerback: Cortland Finnegan
Strong Safety: Chris Hope
Free Safety: Michael Griffin

Specialists:
Kicker: Rob Bironas
Punter: Reggie Hodges
Long Snapper: Ken Amato
Kick Returner: Mark Jones
Punt Returner: Mark Jones

Stat Sheet

Patriots
The Patriots are 74-45-1 all-time against the AFC South. It’s the only division in the NFL in which the Patriots have a winning record against all four teams.

Wide receiver Randy Moss had as many interceptions (one) as receptions last week against the Denver Broncos. It was just the 12th game of his career when he was held to fewer than two receptions, and his teams are 4-8 in those games.

Wide receiver Wes Welker has averaged 7.1 receptions per game during his Patriots career, and he has caught at least six passes in 17 of his last 19 games.

The Patriots had won 53 consecutive games when winning the turnover battle until last week’s loss in Denver.

Head coach Bill Belichick was 9-0 in games in which the temperature was colder than 35 degrees until last week in Denver.

Quarterback Tom Brady is 3-1 in his career against the Titans, including a 17-14 playoff victory during the 2003 season. Brady has completed 67 of 125 passes (62.3 percent) for 779 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in those four games.

Stephen Gostkowski needs to kick five field goals to take over fourth place on the Patriots’ all-time list.

Kevin Faulk
needs five catches to become the 26th running back in NFL history with at least 400 receptions.

Brady has won 18 consecutive home games.

Wide receiver Joey Galloway, who has been a healthy scratch in two consecutive games, needs 11 receptions to become the 30th player in NFL history with at least 700 catches.

Titans
The Houston Oilers are the only team that has ever dealt the Patriots a home playoff loss. The Oilers knocked off the Pats, 31-14, at Schaefer Stadium on Dec. 31, 1978.

This will be the Titans’ fourth road game of the season.

Kerry Collins has a 79-90 career record as a starting quarterback.

Collins is 1-2 in his career against New England. He has completed 78 of 143 passes (54.5 percent) for 888 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions in those three games.

Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch needs two tackles to give him 500 in his career.

Linebacker Keith Bulluck has 51 tackles in four career games against the Patriots.

Center Kevin Mawae has started 227 games, more than any current NFL offensive lineman.

Safety Michael Griffin is third on the team in 2009 with 33 tackles.

Rob Bironas is coming off his second career game with three field goals of at least 40 yards.

Bironas needs one field goal to tie Tony Zendejas for second place on the team’s all-time list with 117.

Black and Blue

(From Thursday's practice report)

Patriots
Running back Fred Taylor (ankle) did not practice and will not play.
Left tackle Matt Light (right knee) did not practice.
Defensive end Jarvis Green (knee) had limited participation.
Right tackle Nick Kaczur (ankle) had limited participation.
Linebacker Jerod Mayo (right knee) had limited participation.
Right guard Stephen Neal (not injury related) had limited participation.
Safety James Sanders (shoulder) had limited participation.
Defensive back Shawn Springs (knee) had limited participation.
Defensive end Ty Warren (calf) had limited participation.
Tight end Ben Watson (concussion) had limited participation.
Wide receiver Wes Welker (knee) had limited participation.
Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (ankle) had limited participation.
Quarterback Tom Brady (right shoulder) fully participated.

Titans
Cornerback Nick Harper (broken forearm) did not practice and will not play.
Safety Michael Griffin (neck) did not practice.
Cornerback Cortland Finnegan (hamstring) did not practice.
Offensive lineman Leroy Harris (concussion) did not practice.
Tight end Craig Stevens (concussion) did not practice.
Linebacker Colin Allred (shoulder) had limited participation.
Linebacker Stanford Keglar (hamstring) had limited participation.
Safety Vincent Fuller (knee) had limited participation.
Linebacker Stephen Tulloch (knee) had limited participation.
Defensive tackle Jason Jones (shoulder) had limited participation.
Defensive end Jevon Kearse (foot) had limited participation.
Guard Jake Scott (illness) fully participated.

This Date in Patriots History

In 1987, Raymond Clayborn took a blocked field goal 71 yards in the other direction for a second-quarter touchdown to help the Patriots beat the Houston Oilers, 21-7, at the Astrodome. The Patriots are 4-3 all-time on Oct. 18.

Overheard

“Having a tuna sandwich and playing the ukulele, there’s nothing bad about that.”
–Patriots linebacker Junior Seau, on life away from football

Press Box

Patriots
The current Patriots are still haunted by the 2007 Patriots.

There is something wrong with the Patriots’ offense.

The defense knows it must improve its tackling.

Titans
Jevon Kearse’s attitude is an issue this season.

Check out Michael Griffin’s blog on the Tennessean’s Web site.

With losses mounting and a huge salary due next season, it’s time to start Vince Young.

NFL
Four teams are trying to provide Detroit’s encore.

One former player details the struggles of a team when its coach is on the hot seat.

Giants running back Brandon Jacobs is uneasy with the success of backup Ahmad Bradshaw.

Outlook

Here is all the Patriots' offense needs to know: The Titans are ranked 30th in passing yards allowed and passing touchdowns allowed, and they’re ranked second with 2.8 yards allowed per rushing attempt. That sounds like a pretty appealing formula for a New England team that loves airing it out with Tom Brady.

The Titans aren’t going to blitz a whole lot, so Brady should have plenty of time in the pocket to pick apart Tennessee’s banged-up secondary, which has been without cornerback Cortland Finnegan for a couple of games. Brady struggled mightily in the second half against the Broncos — completing 5 of 14 passes for 63 yards, and just two of his passes resulted in first downs — who scaled back their blitzes and left seven or eight players in coverage. That was probably a huge emphasis in practice for the Patriots this week, so they’ll receive immediate returns on their efforts.

Defensively, the Patriots have to account for Titans running back Chris Johnson, who has an NFL-high five touchdowns of at least 50 yards since the start of last season. Johnson leads the NFL with 594 yards from scrimmage this season, and he splits carries with bruising back LenDale White.

Patriots linebacker Junior Seau said it would be fair to compare Johnson’s dangerousness to running backs such as the Jets’ Leon Washington and San Diego’s Darren Sproles. Defenses can bottle them up all game, but they’re still a missed tackle or an over-pursuit away from breaking off a long touchdown.

If the Patriots can contain Johnson and build an early lead, they’ll force the Titans to throw more with Kerry Collins, a 36-year-old quarterback who has thrown more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (five) this season. Collins is terrific at managing an offense, but he’s in way over his head when he has to throw to overcome a sizeable deficit.

There is no question the Titans are a much more dangerous team than their winless record indicates, but their pass defense can be exposed and they can’t win as a one-dimensional offense. Expect the Patriots to pull off an impressive victory.