NASHVILLE — The journey to New Orleans and Super Bowl XLVII begins today.
The Patriots begin their schedule against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville after an offseason of tinkering the team’s roster following a heart-breaking loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
With a re-tooled defense, including two first-round picks and a revamped secondary, as well as a new wide receiver for Tom Brady to target, the Patriots have addressed last season’s deficiencies while hoping to stave off any drop in productivity elsewhere. But questions remain.
How will the offensive line hold up with the absence of Brian Waters at right guard, with second-year pro Nate Solder at left tackle full-time, and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back) coming back from injury? Will the secondary be much improved with free-agent signee Steve Gregory and a healthy Patrick Chung at safety? Is Brandon Lloyd the deep threat the Patriots have been searching for since jettisoning Randy Moss?
All of those answers and more will come into a clearer focus today when the Patriots take on rookie quarterback Jake Locker, some fine receivers in Kenny Britt and Nate Washington, a formidable defensive line led by Kamerion Wimbley (42.5 career sacks in seven seasons), and stellar running back Chris Johnson.
The time for questions has come to an end.
This is the 39th time the Patriots have played the Titans franchise, with the Pats leading the overall series 22-16-1. The Patriots are 1-1 in Tennessee and the last time these two teams played it was a lopsided affair with Brady and company besting the Titans 59-0 on a snowy night, Oct. 18, 2009, at Gillette Stadium. It was a record-setting day for the Patriots for points, points in a half (45), net yards (619), passing yards in a half (345), and passing touchdowns in a game (six).
But that was almost three years ago.
Here are the details for today’s game:
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
Records: Patriots 0-0 (Finished preseason 1-3); Titans 0-0 (Finished preseason 3-1).
TV/Radio info: WBZ-TV Ch. 4 (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms); 98.5-FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos, Scott Zolak); Sports USA radio network (Eli Gold, Ross Tucker).
Projected starting lineups:
Based on information distributed to the media, practice observations, and injuries for each team.
Patriots offense: WR Wes Welker, LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, C Dan Connolly, RG Donald Thomas, RT Sebastian Vollmer, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Brandon Lloyd, QB Tom Brady, RB Stevan Ridley, TE Aaron Hernandez.
Patriots defense: NT Vince Wilfork DT Kyle Love, RDE Chandler Jones, LB/DE Ron Ninkovich, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Dont’a Hightower, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Devin McCourty, CB Kyle Arrington, S Steve Gregory, S Patrick Chung.
Titans offense: WR Nate Washington, TE Jared Cook, LT Michael Roos, LG Steve Hutchinson, C Fernand Velasco, RG Leroy Harris, RT David Stewart, TE/FB Craig Stevens, WR Kenny Britt, QB Jake Locker, RB Chris Johnson.
Titans defense: LDE Derrick Morgan, DT Karl Klug, DT Jurrell Casey, RDE Kamerion Wimbley, SLB Akem Ayers, MLB Colin McCarthy, WLB Wil Witherspoon, CB Jason McCourty, SS Jordan Babineaux, FS Michael Griffin, CB Alterraun Verner.
Injuries Patriots: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), OL Nick McDonald (shoulder), RB Shane Vereen (foot).
Titans: T Mike Otto (finger/knee)