The 10*-4 Green Bay Packers host the 5-9 Tennessee Titans at snowy Lambeau Field on Sunday. The Titans don’t have much to play for except pride, with no shot at the playoffs this season. On the other hand, the Packers are playing for a possible second seed and a first round bye in the playoffs. So which would be better? A first round bye or continuation of the momentum the Packers currently have? There are definitely two sides to that coin. What do you think?
This will be the first of two games the Packers will play in which the opposing team fields an excellent running back. Coming up are Chris Johnson of the Titans this week and Adrian Peterson of the Vikings next week. The Packers run defense will be tested early and often in both games. It’s time to tackle boys.
The Titans give up a lot of points and a lot of rushing yards. Their pass defense is ranked 19th in the league. The Packers should win this game, even with their banged up roster. But if they get into that whole play-down-to-your-opponent’s-level thing then we could be in for a long afternoon.
I hope the Packers will come to play and treat the frigid crowd at Lambeau to an entertaining game. Entertaining as in the Packers finally putting four quarters-worth of good game together that is. I think they will do just that.
Here are some things I’ll be watching while I’m watching the game:
Packers offensive line. The latest news is that veteran C Jeff Saturday was benched, to be replaced by Evan Dietrich-Smith. Then word came down that RT Don Barclay is questionable with some kind of illness. The Packers might be forced to slide LG Lang to RT, move EDS to LG, and put Saturday back at C for this game. They’ve had to go that way before.
What really concerns me is that if any of these guys have to leave the game the O line cupboard is pretty bare right now. Will they bring another O lineman up from the practice squad? We’ll see. I’ll be watching the O line closely and for how the Packers scheme in some help for the big guys up front.
Packers run game. For the last three weeks the run game has been a very pleasant surprise. Hopefully at some point it will stop being a “surprise”, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet. With Starks definitely out and Green dealing with a concussion it looks as if the ball will be handed to either Grant or Harris. Behind whichever makeshift O line the Packers can put on the field they’ll have to make an impact and keep the Titans from committing too much to pass defense. I’ll be watching to see if Harris continues to show flashes of potential and for Grant to look strong while holding on to the ball.
Packers passing game.
TE Jermichael Finley had his biggest game all season last week against Chicago. With Nelson out and Cobb now nursing a sore shoulder, Finley, Jennings, and Jones will have to suck it up and make things happen for Rodgers. All are bona fide stars and it’s time to play like them. Jones in particular has a strong outing against Chicago last week. I think it’ll probably be somebody else this week though. Maybe it’ll be Jennings.
I’ll be watching Jennings closely. Once again he’s been telling the media how he’s not sure he’ll be a Packer next year and that it’s all business. Greg- this is this year. Not next year. Packers fans love you, even if they can’t quite get their heads around your commercials. Please…shut up and just ball! I’ll also be watching for the receivers to emphasize ball security.
Aaron Rodgers showed up on the injury report with a sprained ankle this week. The word is that he doesn’t tape them so he has “strong” ankles. As if I ever would have doubted that. Behind the patched together O line he had better be able to move around and make things happen with his bionic ankles and quick feet though.
Packers defensive line / LBs. This game will be all about stopping Chris Johnson. He’s a threat to score every time he breaks into the clear from anywhere on the field. The bigs up front will have to tie up blockers and let the LBs get to Johnson early enough that he can’t get into a footrace with the DBs.
Titans QB Jake Locker is a decent enough game manager, but it’s unlikely he can beat the Packers via air mail. Back for the Packers are Mike Neal and Clay Matthews. Both will have big roles in a successful Packers defense Sunday. It’s good to see 52 getting after QBs again!
Packers DBs. The Packers secondary has to shut down the Titan receivers and keep them from making explosive plays. But the DBs all know that part of defending a team like Tennessee is making sure that if Johnson gets into the open field he is tackled effectively after doing as little damage as possible. I doubt the Packers will hold Johnson to less than 100 yards.
In my opinion as long as Johnson does not get loose for explosive runs his yardage totals won’t matter much. I’ll be watching the Packers defensive secondary to see how well they control the Titans passing game and to support run defense by tackling well. When Locker does throw he’s not always accurate and can be picked. Hayward and Shields need to be ready for that.
Packers special teams. Another game with Crosby as kicker makes me more than a little bit nervous, but the coaches and TT must see something in him and they’re right much more often than wrong. The Titans have a good return game so the Packers had better make sure they’re covering kicks well. It’ll be cold at Lambeau so maybe a Titans returner can be separated from the ball on a kickoff or punt. I’ll be watching for a big play on special teams this week.
- The Packers will use the run game to set up the pass more effectively in this game. With the O line as banged up as they are I wouldn’t expect big rushing totals, but explosive runs will happen if Grant or Harris get holes to run through.
- At least one of the Packers TDs will be scored on the ground.
- Rodgers will throw for well over 300 yards and at least three touchdowns.
- The Packers receivers will not drop a ball in the end zone.
- The Packers will sack Locker three times. Clay Matthews will have two of them.
- The Packers will intercept two Locker passes. Hayward will get one of them, and one of the LBs the other.
- Referees will be watching Sam Shields closely after his performance against Chicago last week. He’d better not be doing anything illegal because the league had its eyes opened last week to just how close 37 was to DPI on a couple of those plays against Jeffery. Not that he actually did commit DPI…of course he absolutely did not. Just sayin’
- The Packers will finally benefit from emphasis on prevention of pre-snap penalties enough that they will have fewer penalties than the Titans.
- The Packers defense will not hold Johnson under 100 yards rushing, but they will keep him from scoring on an explosive run.
We’ll be watching the game with a bunch of Packers (and an unruly mix of other) fans at Tailgators on FM1488 in Magnolia. As usual I’ll be tweeting random thoughts on the game and the telecast to all those who dare to follow at @PackersTX.
Watch LombardiAve.com for the post game analysis.
Bring it Titans! Go Pack GO!