Packers vs. Titans: 5 things to watch and a prediction

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Zach Kruse
·5 min read
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The Green Bay Packers (11-3) and Tennessee Titans (10-4) will both be battling for playoff positioning on Sunday night at Lambeau Field.

The Packers are hunting for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, while the Titans are attempting to hold off the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South. The winner on “Sunday Night Football” will get one step closer to accomplishing their goal.

Here are five things to watch and a prediction for the battle between the Packers and Titans in Week 16:

It's a situation

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers and Titans both have elite situational offenses on third down and in the red zone, but only one of the two teams is in the running for the worst situational defense. Tennessee will arrive at Lambeau Field with the 32nd ranked defense on third down and 30th in the red zone. Can the Packers find a slight (or major?) edge by taking advantage of a few more third downs and dominating in the red zone? Extending drives and piling up the points will be important as the Packers attempt to control the ball and pressure the Titans out of their balanced offense. It's possible the best situational team on Sunday night will end up being the winner. With a deep group of pass-rushers and a talented secondary, the Packers defense looks better equipped to survive in the big moments.

All about that script, no running

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) hands off to running back Derrick Henry (22) during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020.

Game script will be important for both teams. The Packers will want to score early, get ahead and attempt to make the Titans one-dimensional, potentially lessening the destructive potential of running back Derrick Henry and stripping the Titans of their balanced, play-action centered attack. The Titans want the exact opposite. As long as the game stays on script for Tennessee, Henry will play a big factor. The Packers are giving up 4.5 yards per carry this season, but the rushing totals are down because teams have the third-fewest run attempts against them this season. The Packers have established big leads and forced teams out of the run game. Complementary football must apply again. The best defense against Henry might be the offense.

Losing the lulls

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) and tight end Robert Tonyan (85) celebrate after connecting on for a touchdown during the second quarter of their game against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, December 6, 2020 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

The Packers offense is, by almost any measure or reasonable analysis, an elite group led by an elite quarterback, elite running back, elite receiver and elite offensive line. But this unit has still been prone to inexplicable lulls in both execution and production, a potentially damning reality as the playoffs near and every possession becomes vitally important. The Packers, for whatever reason, can do no wrong at times and do no right at others. It'll be hard to survive on Sunday night – or during a playoff game next month – with more extended lulls on offense. This team depends too much on the offense to create the right game script and control the proceedings. The Packers need a consistent performance on offense on Sunday night.

Good time for no turnovers

iDec 19, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) looks on during warmups prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Statistically speaking, the Titans have one of the worst defenses in football, but the group does have a saving grace: takeaways. Tennessee's defense has 21, which ranks sixth in the NFL. Of the 21 takeaways, 13 have been interceptions, including 10 by defensive backs. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown only four interceptions in 14 games, but turnovers have been a contributing factor to Green Bay's three losses. Over 11 wins, the Packers have two giveaways. In the team's three losses, they have seven. Taking care of the football is part of the Packers' winning formula. It will be crucial on Sunday night.

Playing in the elements

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

As is tradition, a late December game at Lambeau Field will have the strong possibility of snow and wintery conditions. The Packers want to be playing all their postseason games in Green Bay, so this is another opportunity for Matt LaFleur's team to create the mental toughness and confidence required for playing in inclement weather late in the season. The Packers have failed at times in the cold and wind this season, and the Titans look well-built for playing in the elements, at least on offense. Derrick Henry won't be fun to tackle in the cold. Also, the weather can be an equalizer, especially for teams reliant on the passing game. The Packers can prove themselves capable of beating anyone – especially any team in the NFC playoff field – if they can handle the Titans in the cold at Lambeau Field on Sunday night.

Prediction: Titans 31, Packers 27 (10-4)

We may learn as much about the Packers’ Super Bowl chances on Sunday night as we have in the last month or more. The Titans provide a big test for both sides of the ball, but for different reasons. Can the Packers offense control the game and the ball, pressure the Titans with a bunch of points and avoid a lull? And can the defense survive against a high-scoring offense that can run the ball and hit big plays off play-action? The Packers are going to score, but they really need to start fast and change the game script. The passing game must be dominant, start to finish. I think the Titans end up muscling their way to a win late, mostly because the Packers defense remains a great unknown against this level of competition, but I still think this could be a momentum-building game. The Packers are going to learn a lot about themselves on Sunday night.