The Packers could clinch the number one seed in the NFC with a win against the Titans on Sunday night in a matchup that can only be described as “interesting.”
A variant of the ancient quandary of what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object will play out Sunday night when the Tennessee Titans travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers.
This won’t be a matchup between the two opponents pitched in battle by the thought experiment, but rather two unstoppable forces: Aaron Rodgers and Derrick Henry.
When asked by reporters recently to describe how Henry – the NFL’s leading rusher and PFF’s number one rated running back – runs, Packers’ head coach Matt LaFleur answered with a chuckle that conveyed awe and perhaps a little fear, “Very violently and angry. He is a beast. You can see it, he’s playing with a lot of confidence…It’s going to be a tremendous challenge for our defense to be able to stop him.”
Henry has been the heart and soul of the Titans, who find themselves with a record 10-4 and tied with the Indianapolis Colts for the best record in the AFC South. He is the embodiment of Newton’s second law of motion, which allows him to brutalize opposing defenders on a near-weekly basis.
A legitimate argument exists in favor of Henry taking home the Associated Press’s NFL Offensive Player of the Year award come season’s end; he would be the first running back to win the award since Todd Gurley in 2017 and only the fourth of the last decade.
But for as dominant as Henry has been this season, perhaps no other player has been having a better season than Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers leads the NFL in touchdown passes (40) and passer rating (118.0) and is playing some of the best football of his career; only Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson figure to pose a threat to his chances at bringing home his third MVP award.
But the factor that determines who wins the battle between the two unstoppable forces will likely come down to which defense is best able to prevent themselves from breaking.
Tennessee’s defense has been one of the worst in the NFL, particularly against the pass. They’re dead-last in total sacks (14) and quarterback pressure percentage (16.8 percent). It will be difficult – if not impossible – for the Titans to beat Green Bay if they cannot put pressure on Rodgers.
On the other hand, while the Packers’ defense has been mediocre overall, they have not faced an opponent of Henry’s caliber. Green Bay has allowed 1,541 rushing yards on the season – 11th in the NFL – but the underlying numbers paint a grimmer picture.
The only other running back that posed a similar threat to that of Henry – albeit in a slightly different talent package – was the Minnesota Vikings’ Dalvin Cook who rushed the ball 30 times for 163 yards and three touchdowns in their recent 28-22 win over the Packers. The Titans will assuredly unleash Henry in a similar fashion.
The battle between Aaron Rodgers and Derrick Henry will garner all the attention come Sunday night, but the team that comes out on top will likely be the one whose defense holds the most steady.
For a Packers team that finds themselves in the driver’s seat in the race for the NFC’s number one seed – and the conference’s corresponding sole first-round bye – they simply can’t afford to lose.