It's what we've all been waiting for. No more projections, no more guesses, no more uncertainty. The 2012 regular season begins on Wednesday night, but Tom Brady and his New England Patriots will kick off their season against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon at LP Field in Nashville, TN. Time to put up or shut up.
Brady and the Pats (well, mostly Brady) stumbled through the preseason, with the team's star quarterback taking hit after hit thanks to an evolving offensive line, posting a 1-3 record in the annual exhibition games. New England squeaked out a 7-6 win in its preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints, but came up short against the Philadelphia Eagles (27-17), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (30-28) and the New York Giants (6-3 ... yawn). Thankfully, those games don't count.
Heading into the opener, optimism remains high among Patriots fans, and there is good reason for that. A struggling defense from one season ago has made strides this offseason, the offense is bolstered by the return of Wes Welker (albeit on a one-year franchise tag) and a healthy Rob Gronkowski, as well as speedy wideout Brandon Lloyd. Of course, Brady is still here, making the Pats an instant playoff and championship contender. Considering that, with all their problems, the Patriots still made it to the Super Bowl last season, there's no reason not to be excited for 2012.
Every team in the NFL poses a threat, but Tennessee shouldn't be a terribly difficult opponent for New England. The Titans went 3-1 in the preseason, losing only to the undefeated Seattle Seahawks (27-17) in the preseason opener (but again, it's the preseason, folks), and are tryint to re-establish themselves as a contender in the AFC South. Jake Locker leapfrogged former Boston College quarterback Matt Hasselbeck on the Titans' depth chart and will get the start on opening day after playing in only five games one year ago. Offensively, the Patriots will have to contain running back Chris Johnson, but will be spared the task of defending wide receiver Kenny Britt, who has been suspended one game by the NFL after another altercation. All things considered, the Pats should be up to the task.
Kick off between the Patriots and Titans is at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday (CBS/98.5 FM).