Well another big game on Sunday and another Patriots victory, extending their win streak to six games. For one of the first games this season the Patriots’ defense had the pressure on them and won them the game. They also came up with a huge turnover that helped them in that cause. After the game the next day Bill Belichick clearly was relieved and satisfied with their effort, something that probably had a lot to do with playing Aaron Rodgers.
Now the Packers are in the rear view mirror and the Patriots turn their focus to the Tennessee Titans and old friend Mike Vrabel. The Titans somewhat closely resemble the Buffalo Bills in that they play very sound defensive football, but struggle on offense. This game could be about who can win the field position game, but if the Patriots can create offense and make big plays it could be tough for the Titans to compete.
With that being said, here is what to watch for with the Patriots as they seek to extend their six game winning streak before they enter their bye week.
- Patriots facing Patriots South
This obviously comes up when most people think of the Titans considering the Titans’ head coach is Mike Vrabel, but the ties to the Patriots run deep in this organization. The GM is Jon Robinson, who used to work in the Patriots front office, but then on the field they have a bunch of former Patriots including: Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, Josh Kline, and Dion Lewis. This will be a battle and most people I am sure will be very interested to see how Malcolm Butler performs. Spoiler alert: this year has not been kind to Malcolm Butler, but this could provide the right type of motivation for him for obvious reasons, but…..
1a. Malcolm Butler
Yes this game will obviously be a game where Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels know the opposing quarterbacks very well. Logan Ryan seems less likely to be picked on, but Malcolm Butler could be someone that Tom Brady goes after. Butler has struggled to produce after receiving the big contract in free agency. While Butler has continued to struggle, it just so happens that his potential matchup, Josh Gordon, has continued to ascend and showed against the Packers that Tom Brady very much has his trust. This is the type of game where Gordon could have multiple deep balls thrown his way considering Butler’s shorter stature and lack of top end speed. Look for a huge game from Gordon if Butler lines up across from him.
- Healthy workload from the running backs
The Tennessee Titans currently possess a strong defense. As a matter of fact they are tied for the fewest points allowed per game with 17.6 points. They also rank eighth in both passing yards allowed per game and overall yards per game. Their one weakness is their run defense which currently sits 16th in the NFL giving up 107.2 yards per game.
Because of that this looks like a solid time to get Sony Michel (if he plays as has been reported) some light work before the bye, as well as Kenjon Barner some work. One thing to monitor is James White’s ankle which seemed to bother him in the Packers game (though he wasn’t on the injury report). If that is bothering him maybe the Patriots limit his carries in between the tackles and they give Cordarrelle Patterson those carries. Patterson has clearly earned more carries as he really flashed against the Packers Sunday. Patterson’s size gives him a big advantage on the edge against smaller corners, and he really hit the hole hard and definitively.
- How will Patriots play injuries?
The Patriots are banged up. Last week their injury list was quite long, but this week they don’t have quite as many injuries listed. Despite the lesser list, the quality of the names on the injury report haven’t changed with Sony Michel, Shaq Mason, and Rob Gronkowski all still on there. The good news on the list is that Shaq Mason is back to practicing albeit in a limited capacity. Sony Michel also seems likely to get some time this Sunday if the last round of reports are to be believed.
The question that will be interesting is with the bye week next week and the Patriots not playing someone of the Chiefs stature; will they lighten up and not play everyone? Shaq Mason seems like he may miss the game and will get an extra week with the bye, but will Belichick do that with Gronkowski? I think the odds are leaning towards Gronkowski playing, but if it were me I would be hesitant to play any of the three. With an extra week and the division giving you more breathing room by the week, why risk anything? Give everyone an extra week.
-David Albiani is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @david_albiani