Final Thoughts on Packers vs. Titans Thursday Night Matchup

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) runs for a long gain against Tennessee Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson (25) in the third quarter during their football game Sunday, December 27, 2020, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.Apc Packvstitans 1227200548
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) runs for a long gain against Tennessee Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson (25) in the third quarter during their football game Sunday, December 27, 2020, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.Apc Packvstitans 1227200548 /

The Green Bay Packers are back home for a Thursday night game with Tennessee as they hope to build off of Sunday’s performance against Dallas, which was easily their best on offense this season.

On paper, this isn’t a great matchup for the Packers. Tennessee boasts one of the best defenses in the NFL, able to get after the quarterback and defend the run with the best of them while also having Derrick Henry and a stout run game. With that said, as a whole, this is a Titans’ offense that hasn’t put up many points, in part due to an ineffective passing game.

With kickoff approaching, I take one last look at this Packers and Titans matchup with my final thoughts on the upcoming game.

David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins are both questionable, and having each of them available against Tennessee will be a must. This is a Titans pass rush that is incredibly stout when it comes to getting after the quarterback and the run game. Any success that the Packers are going to have on offense begins with the offensive line.

– Something to keep your eye on before kickoff is the status of interior defensive lineman Jeffrey Simmons, who is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. According to PFF ($$), Simmons is tied for second in total pressures among defensive linemen.

– Against such a fierce pass rush, the Packers’ formula for success feels somewhat similar to what it did against Dallas, which involves a heavy dose of the run game. However, that is going to be more challenging against the Titans, who are allowing only 3.9 yards per rush this season. Although yards will likely be hard to come by, a consistent run game can help open up the passing game.

– It won’t be easy, but the Packers have to be consistent with the run game–becoming one-dimensional against this pass rush won’t end well. Against Dallas, the Packers proved that they can still find success on the ground against heavy fronts, and while we hope they are ripping off some big runs, a consistent ground game averaging 3.9 yards per rush can still impact how the defense defends the play.

– The Packers have to find ways to stay ahead of the sticks. Falling behind and letting this pass rush pin their ears back in obvious passing situations isn’t a recipe for success.

Will the Titans play the Packers differently because of Christian Watson? Over the last two weeks, in particular, we’ve seen Dallas and Detroit essentially daring the Packers to throw the football. While Watson brings the obvious big play ability, his presence can also create opportunities for other pass catchers through better spacing and with the attention he draws, along with more opportunities in the run game as defenses aren’t able to crowd the line of scrimmage.

All of the Packers’ attention should be on slowing Derrick Henry. The Titans’ offensive line has been bad at pass protecting, their leading receiver has 266 yards, and they rank 30th in pass attempts per game. Trust Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas on the boundary, and focus on slowing the run.

– It’ll be interesting to see how the Packers deploy Darnell Savage and Rudy Ford. If they play more base defense will the Packers have Ford next to Amos since he is the better tackler and run defender? Last week in base, it was still Savage deep next to Adrian Amos.

– The Packers aren’t going to stop Henry. He faces loaded boxes at the highest rate in the NFL and still averages 4.6 yards per rush. The goal is to not let him dominate the game. This is why in addition to playing with heavier boxes, Barry may need to incorporate some stunts up front as Denver did this past week to muddy up running lanes. Tackling is also going to be a must against Henry, who, as you’d expect, is one of the best at forcing missed tackles and yards after contact. All 11 defenders have to meet at the football.

– Green Bay’s offense can provide the run defense some help as well by putting together long drives, giving the Packers leads to work with, and controlling the time of possession. This will help keep Henry on the sidelines and provide the defense with some rest opportunities.

Is Dede Westbrook going to be one of the Packers’ practice squad elevations? He was signed on Tuesday and has 69 career punt return attempts at 9.4 yards per return.

– If Aaron Rodgers does manage to have some time in the pocket, a weak point on this very good Titans defense is their secondary. Tennesse ranks in the bottom half of the league in pass breakups, yards per attempt allowed, and last in big play DVOA. With that said, having time against his defensive front isn’t easy to come by.

– Let’s see more of the Matt LaFleur offense on display as we did against Dallas. More bunch sets to get the receivers clean releases, more play-action, snaps under center, motion, and of course, the run game.

– Being the home team on Thursday night football has been a big advantage, given the short week. Can the Packers capitalize on the opportunity?

– According to Tom Pelissero, Randall Cobb is expected to play tonight after being designated to return from IR on Tuesday. This will be his first game back since Week 6, and with this week being primarily walk throughs, he hasn’t had much practice time. I would anticipate his role to be small but watch for him on third downs where he’s been super effective.

– Most games come down to the play in the trenches but that feels particularly true for this Packers-Titans matchup. Tennessee runs the ball a lot but struggles in pass protection, while any success for the Packers offense begins with the run game.