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What the Patriots have to do to beat the Titans

Three keys to the game for New England.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at New England Patriots Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Later today, the New England Patriots play their fourth and final game of the season against an AFC South opponent. In order for the team to improve its record against the division to 3-1, both sides of the football need to play a disciplined game against a Tennessee Titans team that fields one of the best defenses in the NFL and an offense that may not sit atop the statistical leaderboards but has still helped win four games so far this season.

Let’s find out what the Patriots have to do to beat them.

Be disciplined in the front seven

Tennessee has one of the NFL’s most balanced offensive attacks: led by running backs Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry as well and quarterback Marcus Mariota, the team has not shied away from turning to its ground game to get the offense going — and the Patriots need to be ready for it as well today. Being disciplined up front in terms of technique and gap integrity therefore has to be a key for New England: the team can neither allow Lewis and company to get to the perimeter nor to open up lanes for Mariota to exploit as a ball carrier. If that happens and the Titans have to turn primarily to their inconsistent passing game to generate yards, the Patriots’ chances of winning should look good.

Don’t be afraid to go for the home run

Even though safety Kevin Byard is one of the better players in the NFL at his position, New England should not be afraid to challenge Tennessee deep — especially on the side of the field where Malcolm Butler is lining up. While Butler is not as bad a player this year as his statistics suggest, the Patriots knows his weaknesses as well as anybody and should use this knowledge to their advantage. Trying to get a physically imposing player like Josh Gordon in one-on-one situations against Butler should be a goal for the team, and one that could field results.

Win in the red zone

Tennessee’s offense is one of the least productive in the NFL when it comes to scoring points, but it has still found some success in the red zone this season. Meanwhile, the team’s defense is arguably the best in the league at keeping teams from scoring touchdowns when backed up. Safe to say that the red area will therefore be a deciding factor of today’s game: if the Patriots offense can overcome its inconsistencies in this part of the field and the defense can continue following its bend-don’t-break principles, the team will have a successful day.