Titans aren't so scary

KEN FIDLIN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:06 AM ET

The elephant in the room ... Check that. The elephant NOT in the room, is Albert Haynesworth.

The Tennessee Titans don't like to hear it. Don't want to hear it. The players have even declared their locker room a 'No Albert Zone,' meaning they don't want to talk about a guy who no longer plays for them.

Haynesworth, all 6-foot-6 and 350 pounds of him, was the heart and soul of the defence that led the Titans to a 10-0 start and a 13-3 finish in 2008. Then the (Incredible Bulk) left as a free agent to sign with Washington.

And now, those same Titans are 0-2, still looking for their mojo on defence, going into New York to play the Jets.

That stout defence has been getting burned, first by the Steelers and then by the Texans, on third down, a play that Haynesworth used to own by causing mayhem in the middle of the line. Last week, the Texans were 5 of 13 in third-down conversions and a week previous, Ben Roethlisberger converted two critical first downs, one that tied the game late and the other to win it in overtime.

"Albert was a mismatch," says Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn. "He was disruptive."

An 0-3 start doesn't doom Tennessee but it puts them in a difficult hole. Not many playoff teams start with three losses.

The Titans may even have to look to their offence, which runs counter to their personality, to get the job done. Running back Chris Johnson, who rushed for 187 yards and caught passes for another 87 in their 34-31 loss to Houston is looking for some revenge on Rex Ryan, now the Jets head coach, and linebacker Bart Scott. Ryan was the defensive coach in Baltimore last year when the Ravens beat Tennessee 13-10 in the playoffs. Scott was one of Baltimore's linebackers.

Johnson was knocked out of that game in the second quarter, having already amassed 100 yards of combined offence.

"I can take it out on them," Johnson said.

Worry central

Boston always has been a 'sky-is-falling' kind of place. It probably goes back to the 86-year drought experienced by the Red Sox that ended in 2004. But between the Sox and the Patriots, Boston sports fans have had it pretty good in the new millennium.

But old habits die hard, so, with the New England football team showing a few cracks in the first two games, the Chicken Littles are having a field day.

Suddenly Tom Brady can't get it done. And maybe Bill Belichick has lost something off his fastball. That's the kind of fretting that has been going on this week.

As if the Pats needed another reason to worry, receiver Randy Moss's name appeared on the injury report on Friday and he did not work out. Wes Welker is already questionable and the loss of Moss would leave Brady without one of his key weapons.

Today, they face a resurgent Atlanta Falcons team led by Boston College product, Matt Ryan, who has been really getting it done. In two wins, Ryan has completed 43 of 63 passes for 449 yards, five TDs and just one pick.

The Pats don't like to blitz, but they may be forced to do something to get some pressure on Ryan.

EXTRA POINTS

Kevin Kolb will start in Donovan McNabb's absence, but Michael Vick will probably get significant playing time in his first game of eligibility for the Eagles. "We put some things in (the playbook) just for him," said coach Andy Reid ... Looks like Matt Hasselback will not be at QB for the Seattle Seahawks. He, like McNabb, is recovering from a broken rib ... Eagles corner Sheldon Brown was fined $10,000 US by the NFL for showing up in pre-game introductions last week wearing a Friday The 13th' hockey mask.

KEN.FIDLIN@SUNMEDIA.CA

---

WHO TO WATCH

People in the NFL to keep an eye on this week

MATT RYAN

FALCONS, QB: Returning to the Boston area where he played college ball, Ryan faces a litmus test against the Patriots. The Falcons are a young team on the rise, looking to get another notch in their belts against the wounded Patriots.

MICHAEL VICK

EAGLES, QB: After missing two NFL seasons while doing time for his role in a dog-fighting ring, Vick is eligible to play for the first time today. With Donovan McNabb on the shelf, Vick will see some action behind today's starter, Kevin Kolb.


Videos

Photos