Any Given Sunday: Titans Head to Foxboro with Upset in Mind

Dave StanleyCorrespondent IOctober 16, 2009

FOXBOROUGH, MA - AUGUST 17:  David Thornton #50 of the Tennessee Titans pulls down Kevin Faulk #33 of the New England Patriots during the first half of a pre-season game at Gillette Stadium August 17, 2007 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

There's something to be said for being the best winless team in the NFL.  

Every week, no matter what the odds, there is undoubtedly at least one expert who sees an upcoming matchup as the Tennessee Titans' breakout game; the one where they get the proverbial monkey off their back.

Such was the case this week, as's Brian Baldinger somewhat boldly predicted a Titans upset over a resurgent—and heavily favored—New England Patriots team. 

Was he out of his mind when he went out on that limb? Was he told by his handlers to be nonsensical to "keep it interesting?"

Or does he and the rest of the optimistic Tennessee faithful have a point?  

It's always tough answer that question when a team is in a hole like the one the Titans are in. It's one thing to be winless and have a young, purged roster, peppered with has-beens, in the name of rebuilding.  

Kansas City, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay are all in that same, similar boat. All three ushered in mediocre expectations this year, at best.  

But the Tennessee situation presents a conundrum. The inexplicable demise in spite of all the returning talent has everyone asking the same question: "What the heck happened to the Titans?"

At times, Sunday's battle in New England looks like an open and shut victory for the Patriots. Then again, there are just enough intriguing matchups to perhaps make Mr. Baldinger look like he's on to something.  

Here are a few areas that will be worth watching this weekend.


Patriots Rush Defense 

The past two weeks haven't been easy on Tennessee running backs. Both Chris Johnson and LenDale White have put up pedestrian numbers as of late.  

As Denver found out last week, the Patriots getting Jerod Mayo back has decidedly bolstered their previously vanilla run-stopping abilities. True, injuries have forced them to abandon their vaunted 3-4 scheme for a less-scary 4-3, but they're a force to be reckoned with once again.  

The law of averages would indicate that at least one of the Tennessee backs will have a "get back on track" day, given that the Patriots aren't the quickest team on defense. But it will definitely be tough.


Patriots Pass Rush

This is one area that the Titans can possibly exploit. If Kerry Collins has time, he's not half-bad.

Last week, the Pats' D made Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton look like a Hall of Famer. This bodes well for Tennessee, for obvious reasons. Even if its running game plays at half-speed, Collins and his receiving cohorts should be able to move the ball effectively through the air.  

Remember, Denver drove 98 yards in the fourth quarter last week—an obvious pass-only scenario—and scored.  

Yep, Bill "the Mastermind" Belichick let that happen. To a Kyle Orton-quarterbacked team, no less.  

If the butterfingered Tennessee receivers can hold onto the ball and Collins keeps his happy feet under control, this looks to be a bright spot.  


Patriots Passing Game

New England sports the sixth-ranked passing attack in the league. And that's with Tom Brady being out of sync thus far.  

To be honest, he can't be too worried about going up against the underachieving, injury-decimated Tennessee secondary. Even if these were the Titans of last year, chances are he would find a way to carve them up.  

The key to knocking Brady off of his game is to pressure him constantly. Tennessee hasn't had a scary pass rush since Jevon Kearse's rookie year. Yes, there have been players with double-digit sacks, but nobody has really struck fear into offensive lines.  

This looks to be a long, long day for the Titans' secondary. The only thing they can hope for is to keep either Wes Welker or Randy Moss in check. They're not going to stop them both.  

Failing that, there's always hope that Brady will have a bad day.  

But probably not.