Patriots - Titans: Game Preview

Titans RB Chris Johnson

The 3-2 New England Patriots host the 0-5 Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. Game preview, player news, scouting reports and more...

Tennessee Titans (0-5) at New England Patriots (3-2)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET
LOCATION: Foxborough, Mass
VENUE: Gillette Stadium
SURFACE: FieldTurf
WEATHER: Current Forecast
TV: CBS (Don Criqui, Randy Cross)

SERIES: 37th regular-season meeting. Patriots lead series 20-15-1 and have won three straight, including beating the Titans 40-23 in the 2006 season finale that kept Tennessee from reaching the playoffs. The most memorable game between the two was in the 2003 playoffs when New England edged the Titans 17-14 at Gillette Stadium in the divisional round in temperatures around zero degrees.

PERSONNEL NEWS::

Titans:

  • DE Jevon Kearse, whose departure after being inactive created a stir last Sunday night, suffered a left foot injury in Thursday's practice and he likely won't be available this week.
  • DE Kyle Vanden Bosch drew a $5,000 fine from the NFL for his low hit on Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. It is also believed that DE Jacob Ford drew a fine for a hit on Manning in the same drive that was also penalized.
  • TE Craig Stevens has passed his baseline test after being knocked out on the opening kickoff against Indy and suffering a concussion. Still, he is not likely to play or practice this week.
  • G Leroy Harris remains out with a concussion as well. He missed practice for the second straight day.
  • DT Jason Jones was a limited participant in practice Thursday after going fully on Wednesday. Jones has been bothered by a shoulder problem.
  • DE Jacob Ford was added to the injury report with an ankle problem that limited him on Thursday.
  • LB Stephen Tulloch's right knee had a protective sleeve, as he was limited and added to the injury report on Thursday.
  • G Jake Scott returned from missing practice with an illness on Wednesday and was a full go for Thursday's work. He is expected to play Sunday.
  • CB Cary Williams could see his first extensive action of the season if the Titans cannot get Cortland Finnegan back from his hamstring injury. Williams was waived before the Titans played Houston in week two, but brought back the following week to the practice squad and eventually the 53-man roster.

Patriots:

  • LT Matt Light remained absent from practice Thursday due to a knee injury he suffered in last week's game; it's unlikely he'll play Sunday against Tennessee.
  • G Stephen Neal participated in a limited portion of practice Thursday due to a non injury-related matter. With that in mind, Neal should be ready for Sunday's game.
  • DE Ty Warren missed portions of Thursday's practice with a calf injury, marking the second day in a row he's been on the field for brief stretches. His availability for Sunday is in doubt.
  • WR Randy Moss returned to the field Thursday after missing practice due to a non injury-related matter on Wednesday. All indications are Moss' situation won't keep him out of this weekend's game.
  • Although LB Jerod Mayo returned to the lineup this past weekend, he's participating in only limited portions of practice this week as a precautionary measure. His knee injury has all but healed and he should be ready to go Sunday.

SCOUTING REPORTS:

Titans:
Asking the Tennessee Titans' struggling secondary at full strength to cover Randy Moss and Wes Welker is tough enough. But trying to do it with four-fifths of their top guys in doubt, including nickel back Vincent Fuller, is quite the challenge.

The Titans already know they won't have Fuller and Nick Harper, both of whom have broken forearms, and they might not have Cortland Finnegan or Michael Griffin either, as neither practiced for a second straight day.

Finnegan is still bothered by a hamstring injury, and though the Titans have said he did not tweak it last week, he has not taken part in a team drill since exiting last Thursday's practice. Griffin is still bothered by a neck stinger that occurred against Indianapolis last Sunday night.

For that reason, the Titans signed veteran cornerback Roderick Hood on Thursday and will hope to give him enough of a crash course to be available, should Finnegan not be active again Sunday at New England.

Hood, who started 14 games for NFC champion Arizona, will be on his third team this year, having spent camp and preseason in Cleveland and briefly in Chicago.

To make room for Hood on the roster, Tennessee waived sixth-round pick Dominique Edison on Thursday.

"It's a little different, but I'm just running with it, and just trying to grasp and learn everything I can while I'm here," Hood said of trying to quickly get up to speed.

The Titans had worked Hood out a couple of weeks ago and were impressed, but needed safety help more at the time, and elected to sign Kevin Kaesviharn that day instead.

"With Nick going down for an indefinite period of time we needed to add some help to the secondary," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "Several weeks ago we worked out a bunch of DBs and were very pleased with Roderick's workout. We brought him in to just provide some help for us."

Patriots:
You can sense a strange buzz around the Patriots' locker room these days.

The players are realistic, yet they're still excited to see 40-year-old linebacker Junior Seau back in uniform, ready to help provide depth to a defense that is sorely lacking in that department.

"I'm happy to see him. He's been doing this for a long time and he's still got a motor to him," nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. "I think a lot of guys can learn from a guy like that. He comes to work prepared every day and ready to work."

Seau is back for his third stint with the Patriots in what is now his 19th NFL season. The most remarkable aspect of all this is Seau can still play at a high level, albeit not quite as he was during his first go-round with the Patriots two years ago.

Nonetheless, his presence both on and off the field will add value and depth in numerous ways. The Patriots need the help on defense and they could certainly use his positive influence with so many new, young players on the roster. This is a low-risk, high-reward move that could pay dividends in several ways.

"On and off the field, a great guy," Wilfork said. "I've been here for six years and three of them I've had a chance to play with Junior, so it's exciting for me and hopefully exciting for this defense to have a guy like that come back."

There's little chance Seau will play on every down, though don't be surprised if he takes on a role similar to the one linebacker Roman Phifer played in 2001. Told he was going to be play a specific "role" for the Patriots' first Super Bowl team, Phifer's actual role wound up being as an every-down player.

Seau is a bit older now than Phifer was in those days, but he's got plenty of experience and a lot left in the tank. Those who disagree should check some of the acrobatics he performed on his reality TV show earlier this year, including a run-in with some overzealous bulls.

Could some of Seau's longevity rub off on younger players such as Wilfork?

"I wouldn't say that," laughed Wilfork. "It just goes to show you the love for the game he has. When I first saw him, he said, 'You can't erase memories,' and he was like, 'This is memories, and life is going to be there after football.'"

PREDICTION: Patriots 27-17


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