Patriots at Titans: What to watch

Friday, November 9, 2018, Vol. 42, No. 45

Partiots at Titans

Sunday, Nov. 11, Noon

TV: CBS (WTVF, Channel 5)

Radio: 104.5 FM

1. Tom Brady’s heroics. Brady has only lost to the Titans one time in his career, 16 years ago. New England took the Titans apart in the AFC Divisional Playoffs last year and have shown no signs of slowing. The Titans should be plenty familiar with Brady, more so than most teams, considering they have four former Pats on their roster in Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Josh Kline and Dion Lewis. Will that knowledge of Brady and Bill Belichick be enough to slow them down?

2. Take the gloves off. Marcus Mariota played much better (21 of 29, 240 yards, two touchdowns passing) against Dallas without the half glove he has been wearing since his elbow injury in the season opener. He has regained the feeling in his throwing hand and fingers, which should help the passing game, which has struggled for a good part of the season this year. If Mariota is close to 100 percent and can cut it loose on his throws, then he needs to begin taking more risks down the field because the Titans are in desperate need of explosive plays.

3. Matching wits. Mike Vrabel played for Bill Belichick and, even though he has not coached under Belichick, still seems to consider himself a Belichick disciple of sorts. A win somehow against the Patriots would certainly be a big feather for Vrabel, who also was a teammate of Tom Brady’s during his time in a Patriots uniform.

Matchups to watch

Malcolm Butler vs. Patriots receivers. Butler left the Patriots under mysterious circumstances, having been benched in the Super Bowl without explanation. Belichick has never offered a reason for the benching. Neither has Butler, who defected to the Titans with a $61 million contract in the off-season. Butler has struggled at times, gambling too much and giving up big plays. But you can bet he wants to do well in what will be his own personal “Super Bowl” this Sunday. You also can bet Belichick and Brady know his weakness and will exploit it.

Dion Lewis vs. Patriots’ defense. Lewis is another Titan who will be playing against the Patriots for the first time since leaving New England. Lewis didn’t – like Butler – leave under mysterious circumstances, but the Patriots obviously felt he was replaceable. Lewis, who hurt the Titans during the playoff game with the Patriots last season, would like to have a big day on Sunday against his former club.