Week 1: New England Patriots At Tennessee Titans
- QuarterbackTom Brady is a Hall of Famer who has a lot more going for him than his three Super Bowls. Brady is an accurate, alert and strong-armed passer whose greatest asset may be his hunger to improve every season.The Titans are taking a big chance to get back into the NFL playoff picture as they turn the quarterback reigns over to strong-armed Jake Locker. He has the kind of athleticism and guts to make clutch plays when the game is on the line.
- OffenseThe Patriots have the kind of offense that can strike quickly and put a game out of reach. No offense gets the production from its tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez that the Patriots do. Wes Welker will make plays when the game is on the line.Mike Munchak knows that Jake Locker is not ready to seize control of the offense and do it all himself. He is expecting a big year from Chris Johnson, who struggled a year ago. Kendall Wright has the skills to become an explosive receiver.
- DefenseThe inability to play consistent defense was the Patriots’ biggest issue a year ago. That was not a major issue since New England lit up the scoreboard so regularly, but head coach Bill Belichick is expecting much more. Look for an All-Pro year from defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.The Titans want to improve their pass rush significantly this season after recording just 28 sacks a year ago. Defensive end Kamerion Wimbley has the speed and explosiveness to improve that weakness. Strong safety Jordan Babineaux should develop into a Pro Bowler this year.
- Special TeamsPlacekicker Stephen Gostkowksi is one of the most consistent producers in the business, but he does not get depth on his kickoffs. Punter Zoltan Mesko had 41.5 yard net average last year and Julian Edelman is a solid punt returner.The Titans’ special teams had solid results in both punt return differential and kickoff return differential, but they committed a slew of penalties that made their performance questionable. Rob Bironas is an accurate and reliable kicker.
The Patriots appear to be the class of the AFC as the season gets under way, while the Titans are going to try to get it done with hustle and a hard-hitting defense. That won’t be enough in this game as the Patriots should open the season with a solid road win.