Six Key Factors That Will Determine the Winner of the Packers-Titans

Six Key Factors That Will Determine the Winner of the Packers-Titans

NFL

Six Key Factors That Will Determine the Winner of the Packers-Titans

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The Green Bay Packers play their final regular season home game of the 2020 campaign this Sunday night when they host the Tennessee Titans in a showdown between two Super Bowl contenders. The Packers are 11-3 after last week’s 24-16 win over Carolina. The Titans are now 10-4-0 after their 46-25 victory over the Lions at home last week. With that 46-point performance, the Titans passed the Packers as the top scoring offense in the league this season.

The Packers can clinch the top seed in the NFC and a first-round playoff bye with a win over Tennessee and a Seahawks loss to the Rams.

This game is also the first time Packers head coach Matt LaFleur will face the Titans, the team that he served as offensive coordinator with in 2018, his final season as an assistant before he was hired by the Packers.

The Titans lead the all-time series between these two teams 7-5-0 in a series that started in 1972 when the Titans were the Houston Oilers. Tennessee has won four of the last five meetings between the two teams.

Here is a look at six key factors that will determine who wins Sunday’s game:

  1. Contain Derrick Henry

There may be no tougher running back to stop in the league today than Henry. The 6’3”, 247-pound former Alabama star has a unique combination of size and speed which makes him extremely difficult to stop.

Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will have some tough choices to make. The Pack is likely to continue to allow OLB Za’Darius Smith to try to freelance at the line of scrimmage and try to get penetration to disrupt the rushing attack.

Henry is going to get his yards. What the Packers cannot allow is for him to be dominant, gain yards in large chunks and be an unstoppable force.

If the Titans are facing third-and-long situations, their passing game will struggle. It will be a huge challenge for the defense to slow down Henry.

  1. Protect Aaron Rodgers

The Packers offensive line struggled at times against the Panthers, allowing five sacks. Some of them were coverage sacks as Rodgers held the ball trying to find a receiver, but the offensive line needs to play better.

The Titans pass rush has been inconsistent this season. They have just 14 sacks in 14 games led by Harold Landry with 4.5 sacks and Jeffrey Simmons with three. Simmons is dealing with a knee injury and did not practice early in the week.

The Packers may get center Corey Linsley back for this game. Linsley was playing at a Pro Bowl level before getting hurt three weeks ago. His return would allow the Packers to move Elgton Jenkins back to guard.

If Rodgers has time to throw, good things should happen for the Packers offense.

  1. Take Advantage of the Titans Shaky Secondary

Tennessee is currently ranked 29th in the league in passing yards allowed per game. This is in part because the Titans are often playing with a lead, but even when adjusting for that fact, the secondary is not that stout.

Rodgers and Davante Adams should be able to connect for some big gains in this game and TE Robert Tonyan should also be a factor. The Packers can also try some deep throws to Marquez Valdes-Scantling in this game if Rodgers has time to throw.

The Packers passing offense struggled in the second half against Carolina, in part because of a failure of the coaching staff to adjust their play calls. Look for LaFleur to mix things up more in the passing game this week against the Titans in a game where the offense will have to put up a lot of points on the board if they hope to win.

  1. Win the Turnover Battle

The Titans are presently tied for first in the NFL in turnover differential with a plus-12. The Packers are a plus-five.

Neither team turns the ball over much. Ryan Tannehill has thrown only five interceptions all season while Aaron Rodgers has thrown four. The Packers have lost five fumbles this season, the Titans just four.

With two very potent offenses on the field and two inconsistent defenses, one key turnover could make a huge difference in this game.

The Packers must at least break even in the turnover battle if they hope to win this game between two evenly-ranked teams.

  1. Run the Ball Enough

The Packers will need to run the football enough to keep the Titans defense guessing. Even though Tennessee’s run defense is stronger than their pass D, the Packers need to keep the defense off-balance and set up their play action passing game.

Aaron Jones is hitting his stride at the right time and had a great game against Carolina. Look for the Pack to feature Jones again and to get him more involved in the short passing game as well to get him the ball in space.

Jamaal Williams did not practice early this week because of a quad injury suffered last week against Carolina. If Williams can’t go, the Pack may turn to rookie A.J. Dillon as the change-of-pace back. The primary issue surrounding Dillon is his inconsistent performance as a pass blocker and receiver.

This game, in cold weather, may be a good opportunity to see what Dillon can do as a runner if he can earn the trust of the coaching staff.

  1. Contain the Titans Wide Receivers

Derrick Henry gets most of the attention, but the Titans have a good pair of starting receivers in Corey Davis and A.J. Brown. Davis has 60 catches for 945 yards and five touchdowns while Brown has 56 grabs for 881 yards and 10 scores.

The Packers can use Pro Bowler Jaire Alexander to cover one of these receivers, but that leaves the struggling Kevin King on the other. Nickel corner Chandon Sullivan and safety Adrian Amos may have to help King in coverage or the Pack may have to play a lot of zone.

King’s inconsistent play since he returned to the lineup are a cause for concern. Tannehill and the passing game are capable of being very productive especially if the Packers are concentrating on stopping Henry.

Again, the Packers need to prevent splash plays and key third down pickups. Getting some pressure on Tannehill will make things easier for the secondary as well.

Prediction:

The Titans offense will be a big test for the Green Bay run defense. Derrick Henry could be in store for a big day and the Packers will need Aaron Rodgers to answer Henry score for score.

While this game will be close, the Packers biggest weakness corresponds with the Titans biggest strength. This game will go down to the wire, but the Packers failure to stop Henry will cause them to come up just short.

Titans 41, Packers 38

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