CLOSE

The Tennessee Titans have put a lot of faith in the productivity of Malcolm Butler. So far it’s not paying off.
Nashville Tennessean

 

Who has the edge when the Titans (4-4) host the New England Patriots (7-2) on Sunday (noon, CBS) at Nissan Stadium? 

Offense: Patriots

The Patriots should get running back Sony Michel back for this one, and tight end Rob Gronkowski probably will be a game-time decision. But even without two of their top threats, the Patriots offense churned for 31 points against the Packers last week. Titans running back Dion Lewis has averaged 138.5 yards from scrimmage the past two weeks, and he’ll look to keep that going against his former team.

Defense: Titans

The Titans are coming off a defensive gem in which the pass rush came alive for five second-half sacks and the run defense held Ezekiel Elliott to just 61 rushing yards. Tom Brady and the Patriots offense will face a stiff test in the red zone, where the Titans defense ranks best in the league. New England’s defense has looked solid at times this season – and at other times looked miserable.

CLOSE

Ahead of Sunday’s matchup between the Patriots and Titans, Marcus Mariota lauded Tom Brady’s ability to stay so good for so long in the NFL.
Erik Bacharach, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee

Special teams: Patriots

Both teams’ units are reliable in this department. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski is 18-of-20 on field-goal tries this season, and Titans kicker Ryan Succop is 15-of-18. Succop, though, missed a crucial 28-yard field goal last week, his only attempt against the Cowboys.

Coaching: Patriots

For the first time, first-year Titans coach Mike Vrabel stars opposite his former coach, Bill Belichick. Sure, Vrabel looked like a Coach of the Year candidate after the first four weeks, but there’s simply no comparing the up-and-comer to the master.

Intangibles: Patriots

The Titans have been one of the toughest home teams to topple recently (they’ve won 12 of their past 15 at home). But as long as Brady is under center and Belichick is wearing a headset on the sideline, the Patriots win “intangibles” without hesitation.

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

 

Predictions

Erik Bacharach, Titans beat reporter

Patriots 27, Titans: 20: The Patriots are averaging 35.5 points per game over the past six weeks. That’s a runaway freight train of an offense barreling toward Nissan Stadium. The Titans’ sparkling defense will do some things to slow New England down, but not enough for their offense to keep up.

Joe Rexrode, columnist:

Patriots 30, Titans 23: The Titans can move the ball on the Patriots and score some points. But the Titans’ NFL-best scoring defense is going to take a hit after Tom Brady and Josh Gordon.

Reach Erik Bacharach at ebacharach@tennessean.com and on Twitter @ErikBacharach.