Guessing what alterations he might make for this week is like trying to concoct a foolproof plan to steal the nation's gold supply. But one certainty is that the defensive plan will focus on McNair. The Patriots will spy him at times with different defenders, will rush him with three and with six. Belichick is likely to send safety Rodney Harrison into the box as an eighth run defender and make McNair try to beat his team throwing the ball downfield against an improving secondary that will likely play mostly man-to-man coverage. If there is a decision to made on game inactives (last week all seven were starters out with an injury), Anthony Pleasant could get the nod over Rick Lyle since the focus of the defensive plan will likely be McNair, and Pleasant is more adept at rushing and containing quarterbacks than Lyle.
On the other side of the ball, it doesn't appear that Belichick has any plans to activate running back Mike Cloud for the game. The Patriots requested and received a one-week exemption and can wait until next week to make a decision on Cloud, who just finished a four-game NFL suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, a suspension he served while simultaneously rehabbing his surgically repaired calf.
With Kevin Faulk now banged up as well, the Patriots could activate Cloud this week if he proves himself capable of contributing while taking part in his first practices of the year this week.
--LB Ted Johnson will not play with a broken foot.
--NT Ted Washington will not play as he recovers from a broken leg.
--T Adrian Klemm is doubtful and did not practice Wednesday with an ankle injury.
--FB Fred McCrary, who was questionable the last two weeks, is doubtful with a sprained left knee and did not practice Wednesday.
--LB Mike Vrabel is doubtful with a broken arm and did not practice Wednesday.
--RB Kevin Faulk is questionable with a left leg injury and did not practice Wednesday.
--WR David Givens is questionable with a shoulder/chest injury, but did practice Wednesday.
--WR David Patten also tested his knee injury and gave it a go at practice Wednesday, but remains questionable.
--CB Ty Law, who played last week on a bum ankle, sat out practice Wednesday and is questionable for Sunday. Law didn't miss a beat playing on the injury last week and it is clearly bothering him. He is likely being given the week to rest the ankle, but will probably play against the Titans.
--LB/DE Willie McGinest is listed as questionable with a neck injury and he did not practice Wednesday.
--C Damien Woody returned to practice Wednesday, but is still questionable with a knee injury.
--QB Tom Brady remains probable with a right arm injury but did practice Wednesday.
--T Tom Ashworth will get his second straight start at right tackle this week against the Titans.
--C Dan Koppen will get his fourth straight start at center while Woody will play guard in place of Mike Compton. With Woody out last week, Russ Hochstein played guard in Compton's spot.
--WR David Givens earned some points when he returned to play hurt last week in Washington and could earn some more playing time this week even if David Patten returns to the lineup. Givens was in pain after the game, but managed a career-best day with four receptions for 57 yards and a 29-yard touchdown grab.
--WR Troy Brown is closing in on Ben Coates for the most consecutive games with a catch as a Patriot. Brown has caught a pass in the last 61 games, leaving him two behind Ben Coates, who caught a pass in 63 straight as a Patriot.
--PK Adam Vinatieri has connected on his last 33 field goals from 40 yards and in.
INJURY IMPACT: The list of injured just keeps growing and growing. Four new names grace the injury report this week joining the nine holdovers from a week ago. Of the 13 injured Patriots, 10 are starters and the other three are either fill-in starters or significant contributors. It was only a matter of time before Willie McGinest made his annual appearance on the injury report, and the Patriots would be without a single edge pass rusher in his absence. They would ask defensive ends Anthony Pleasant and Jarvis Green to pick up the slack, but neither has McGinest's speed or pure rushing ability. If McGinest, and his team-high three sacks, is out, look for New England to try to get Roman Phifer and Tedy Bruschi actively involved in rushing the passer along with strong safety Rodney Harrison. That's the only way Bill Belichick will generate pressure. Belichick was praising tight end Daniel Graham's ability to stay on the field last week and then the second-year tight end missed practice this week with a shoulder injury, which will slow his progress. He had three receptions for 54 yards last week and is the only tight end on the roster who can threaten a defense deep down the middle. If Faulk can't go, Antowain Smith will reclaim the lead back duties, although the Patriots could activate Mike Cloud. That's unlikely given his lack of practice and playing time, and even if he is activated, it would be in a reserve role. The Patriots will remain in a 4-3 front as long as Mike Vrabel, Ted Johnson and Ted Washington remained sidelined. Rookie wide receiver Bethel Johnson injured his left leg last week in Washington and did not return, but is not on the injury report this week.
MATCHUPS: Patriots RT Tom Ashworth, who is making his second career start, vs. Titans DE Kevin Carter, who leads his team with 3 sacks. Ashworth will have his hands full trying to block Carter and since Jevon Kearse and Carlos Hall will also be coming during passing situations, Ashworth will be on island most of the time without any help. The Patriots will occasionally try to chip Carter with a tight end or back, but Ashworth will face a difficult challenge.
--Patriots WR Deion Branch, who has 12 receptions in four games, vs. Titans rookie CB Andre Woolfolk, who got off to a slow start because of a toe injury. The Patriots will try to attack the Titans rookie nickel back and Branch could give him fits since he is an excellent route runner with solid run-after-catch ability. He is one of four Patriots receivers averaging more than 13 yards per catch.
--Patriots CB Ty Law, who won't practice all week because of an ankle injury, vs. Titans WR Derrick Mason, who has a team-high 25 receptions in four weeks. Mason is the go-to guy and Law thrives on taking on the opponent's best. Mason had six catches for 86 yards against Law last year, and the Pro Bowl corner will take that personally. His ankle, while injured, hasn't slowed Law down. Law probably won't see Mason exclusively, but he'll get plenty of opportunities to line up on the Titans top receiver.
--DT Richard Seymour, who is tops among Patriots defensive linemen with 13 tackles, vs. Titans G Zach Pillar, a five-year veteran who missed last year's meeting with an injury. Seymour is the Patriots main presence inside and must get penetration consistently to disrupt both Eddie George and Steve McNair.