(11-4) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT (8-7) TENNESSEE TITANS
The Patriots downgraded five players to out on Saturday; Watson, Wilfork, Scott, Faulk and Childress.
Faulk's loss will be felt in obvious passing situations where the speedy back will be missed on third downs and in the short passing game. With Faulk gone, RB Laurence Maroney will see more action. Maroney returned to the lineup after missing several weeks from a rib injury suffered in the Detroit game. Corey Dillon and Heath Evans are also available to carry the load.
Wilfork has been nursing a sore ankle and missed last week's game in Jacksonville, so his absence was not a surprise. DL Mike Wright has filled in for Wilfork at the nose tackle position. The team has also used a rotation on the line in the past with Ty Warren and Richard Seymour moving to the inside while Marquise Hill and an assortment of linebackers played on the outside.
Watson's absence in the passing game was believed to be something that would have a major impact on the Patriots passing game. Watson was the team's leader in both yardage (643) and receptions (47) until Reche Caldwell became Tom Brady's favorite target. Rookie TE David Thomas filled Watson's shoes in the passing game against Jacksonville managing 5 receptions for 83 yards and touchdown, all career bests. Daniel Graham was also a factor in the ground game and is an additional option for Brady in the passing game.
Chad Scott was the starting corner for the Patriots until his injury. Ellis Hobbs, who had seen his playing time diminish until Scott's absence, filled in for the veteran last week. Asante Samuel is the team's other starting cornerback. The Patriots also have a number of other backs on the roster who can fill in during pass coverage.
Childress was only activated last week from the team's practice squad. He managed a pair of catches, and his impact will be minimal. The team has Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney, Chad Jackson, Troy Brown and Kelvin Kight available.
The team will need to add three more players to the inactive list for Sunday's game. The third quarterback will be Vinny Testaverde, so only two more players will need to be deactivated. With Wilfork and Scott out, expect the deactivations to come on the offensive line.