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Patriots vs. Titans: Pre-Game Thoughts


Five pre-game thoughts as the Patriots prepare to take on the Tennessee Titans to open the 2012 regular season:

1. One match-up that will be intriguing to watch: Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones against Titans' left tackle Michael Roos. Roos is one of the very best the game has to offer, and Chandler Jones will certainly be challenged in his first real pro action. It's hard to say how this match-up will turn out, but if Jones can produce, it should give some indication of exactly how good he could be this year.

2. Third year defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and fourth year defensive tackle Ron Brace have the chance to do something that very few early draft-picks have done in the Bill Belichick era: become a late bloomer. Typically, players in the Patriots system have either contributed early and succeeded, or fallen out of favor with the Patriots coaching staff. Jermaine Cunningham and Ron Brace, two former second round picks, were projected to be on the roster bubble headed into training camp. Yet both of these players earned roster spots and are projected to be on the Patriots' 46 man game-day roster. We'll see if they can become consistent contributors in 2012 - but nice to see they've overcome the odds thus far.

3. Count me as one of the many looking forward to seeing the Tom Brady - Brandon Lloyd connection in full swing today against the Titans. We only saw limited glimpses of the two in the preseason, despite the pair lighting it up in training camp. While I wouldn't expect Brandon Lloyd to have the same coming out party that Randy Moss did against the Jets in 2007, I wouldn't be surprised to see a big play or two.

Two more thoughts after the jump!

4. With four receptions today against the Titans, Patriots receiver Wes Welker will break the franchise record for career receptions, currently held by Troy Brown (557). That being said, where do you think Welker ranks all-time amongst Patriots receivers? Troy Brown and Stanley Morgan certainly have longevity on their side, Randy Moss has the flashy single-season numbers, Deion Branch has the Super Bowl resume, whilst Gino Cappelletti has history. Welker enters his sixth season with the Patriots, and while I'd still give the nod to Troy Brown, it would be hard to deny Welker if he has a repeat of his 2011 campaign.

5. One area where I think the Patriots could exploit the Titans today on defense: right up the middle, at the point of attack. The Titans will start fourth year player Fernando Velasco at center, who has just three career starts to his resume. Velasco will certainly have his hands full going against All-Pro defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, and I can't help but think the Patriots could try to exploit that match-up.