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How will the Patriots use their running backs against the Titans?

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Richard Hill of Pats Pulpit was nice enough to answer some questions about the New England Patriots for us.

1. Any shot Julian Edelman plays?

There's a small chance that Edelman plays in the sense that the coaching staff hasn't ruled him out. He's been practicing and he's been moving well for the first time since breaking his foot against the Giants in week 10.

Realistically, he's not going to play. It's way too soon and it'd be way too risky to put such an important player on the field before he was 100%. All it takes is one misplaced step by a defender to end Edelman's season in full. The Patriots are going to keep him out for another week (or two) to ensure he's as healed as possible.

In his stead, Danny Amendola will continue to see time, as will Keshawn Martin. Neither player is as good as Edelman, but Amendola offers some valuable play of his own and will likely see 10+ targets on the day.

2. How do you expect the running back snaps to be divided? Asking for a friend who has Brandon Bolden on his team.

I think the Titans have a good defensive line with Jurrell Casey and Brian Orakpo, and that typically means more time for the Patriots receiving back James White. White will probably see 60% of the snaps in order to help chip block Casey up the interior, before leaking out into the flat for a potential target.

The issue with Bolden is that while he should be the next man up, the coaching staff believes that he's too important on special teams to have him perform double duties on a consistent basis. He's one of the team's three biggest special teams stars, so it's not like the team can yank him from the unit entirely. The coaching staff will promote Montee Ball from the practice squad, or sign another player, to split the remaining 40% of the snaps with Bolden.

3. What do you think of Josh McDaniels as a potential head coach?

Love it. Love it. Love it. There was one major issue with McDaniels as the Broncos head coach and it was his arrogance. He was a wunderkind that wanted to be Bill Belichick right out of the gate, when 90% of the reason Belichick can get away with his tactics is because he's respected. You can't ship away the team's top two players on offense (Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall) and tell people to "trust the system" if the system isn't properly conveyed to the players.

That won't be a problem anymore. McDaniels has been humbled from his experience and he's been very open to admit what he did wrong and how he's improved over the years. He's an offensive genius that isn't married to any particular offense scheme; he just puts players in the best position to succeed, and that's what's needed in the modern NFL.

McDaniels has had offers from the Browns and 49ers over the past two offseasons, but turned them down because he didn't like the ownership. He's been able to be choosy. If the Titans ownership will let the coaching staff do their jobs, then he would be happy to be there.

4. Give us a player we have never heard of who will have an impact on this game.

Free safety Duron Harmon is going to have to step up in the place of injured star and twin Devin McCourty, who went down against the Texans with a high ankle sprain. Harmon is a third-year player out of Rutgers and while he doesn't offer the same physical ability of McCourty, the Patriots have been very comfortable playing him as the single deep safety over the top.

Harmon has been a ball hawk and he does a good job of deterring quarterbacks from throwing in his area of the field. He struggles with sideline speed and can be a step late, so if Marcus Mariota can drop dimes down the deep sideline, Harmon could have a big negative impact. If Mariota is slightly off with his accuracy, then Harmon will make him pay.

Another name is defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. The Patriots traded with the Saints earlier this season to add some depth and Hicks has really stood out. He's ferociously strong against centers and guards, ragdolling his blockers with ease. He hasn't really been used in a pass rushing capacity this season, but an injury to Dominique Easley means Hicks is going to have to start.

5. Write the headline in Sunday's Tennessean.

"Where Was Walker?"

I think Walker is undeniably the Titans best player on offense and Bill Belichick would enjoy nothing more than to remove him from the game. Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins didn't see his first target until the second quarter (a 5-yard gain), and the Patriots were up 21 points in the fourth quarter while Hopkins had two catches for 12 yards on three targets. Hopkins caught a 40-yard pass in garbage time, but other than that, the Texans didn't even look in the direction of their top receiver.

Walker will likely face safety Patrick Chung, who has been outstanding in coverage this season. He's limited the likes of Jordan Reed (7 targets/3 catches/18 yards/1 TD), Charles Clay (8/4 catch/33/1 over two games), Jordan Cameron (5/2/34/0), Coby Fleener (6/3/20/0), and Jason Witten (6/5/33/0). From a fantasy football perspective, the Patriots rank 4th in the league at defending against tight ends. If Chung holds Walker to under 50 yards, then he'll have done his job.