Just four days after resuscitating their playoff hopes in a comeback victory against the Cowboys, Green Bay will have to carry that momentum into what looks to be another tough test. Packers-Titans on Thursday night should give us another back and forth battle, with Tennessee looking to solidify their hold on the AFC South. Meanwhile the Packers will look to stack some success heading into their bye, with the one loss Eagles waiting on the other side for them.
Last Sunday looked to be a little bit of a turning point for Green Bay’s offense. Aaron Rodgers admitted their loss to the Lions felt like rock-bottom, and they responded with their best performance of the season. Christian Watson is finally healthy, and adds an entirely different element to the Packers offense. Rodgers has had the lowest average depth of target in his career this season, with almost 23% of his passes coming behind the line of scrimmage. But Sunday showed just what true speed can do – with Rodgers finishing 3-5 for 120 yards and 2 TDs on passes traveling 20+ yards.
And they will need that to continue to succeed against the Titans defense. Even though the Packers had found great success on the ground, they will face their toughest test on Thursday. The Titans have the #1 ranked run defense by DVOA, and are #3 in the NFL with only 3.9 yards allowed per rush. Part of that will hinge on the availablity of Jeffrey Simmons – the Titans best defender. He missed practice all week, and did not play against the Broncos on Sunday due to an ankle injury.
Meanwhile, the Titans will have a similar modus operandi on the offensive side. Derrick Henry has been the top running back in the league for the last several years, and that hasn’t changed. He leads the NFL in yards after contact, and has more yards AFTER contact (766) than Aaron Jones has total rushing yards on the season (731). He obviously represents the biggest mismatch, as the Packers runs defense has continued to be porous, allowing 4.8 yards per rush.
This will be an important game in particular for the Packers young linebackers – Isaiah McDuffie and Quay Walker. The stress that a back like Derrick Henry puts on a defense is obvious. But where the Titans can be dangerous is in setting up their passing attack with play-action. The Titans use play-action on over 30% of their passing attempts. And Ryan Tannehill’s yards per attempt on play-action passes is nearly double that of passes without play-action (11.2 vs 5.7).
Coming off a hard-found, emotional win is a dangerous situation for Green Bay. But they have given themselves no margin for error here on out. So if they want to set themselves up to make a run, there can be no let down tonight against a tough Titans team.——————
Jared is a rogue Packers fan from a Steelers family and an overall football junkie, including playing 4 years at Ithaca College. You can follow him on twitter at @JPrugar.