GREEN BAY, Wisc. – The Titans face the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night at Lambeau Field.
Here's a look at six things to watch in the contest:
Stop the Run
On the heels of his team's six-sack performance vs the Broncos, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said defenses earn the right to rush the QB. The way to do that, of course, is by stopping the run, and that's one of the top priorities for the Titans heading into tonight's game vs Green Bay. Packers running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon are quite the 1-2 punch, with 738 yards and 454 yards, respectively, through 10 games. The Titans need to find a way to slow them down, and Tennessee's run defense has been really good since the team's slow start vs the run. The Titans are now the NFL's 2nd ranked run defense, allowing just 85.1 yards per game.
If the Titans are able to stop the run on the early downs, they'll have a chance to come after Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. If the Titans can pin their ears back and go like they did vs Broncos QB Russell Wilson, they could get Rodgers flustered and upset, and cause him to snap at HC Matt LaFleur, something he's been guilty of on several occasions. Rodgers doesn't run like he used to, but he's not a sitting duck in the pocket either. Still, he's been sacked 20 times on the season, and the Titans would love to add to that total in bunches.
On a cold night, the Titans would love to run the ball themselves. Running back Derrick Henry ranks 2nd in the NFL in rush yards (923), and he's tied for 2nd in rush TDs (9). He's gone over 100 yards in five of the team's last six games. Henry is just 77 rushing yards from 1,000 for the season. In the team's Week 16 matchup vs the Packers in 2020, Henry ran for 98 yards on 23 carries. This year's Green Bay defense hasn't been very good vs the run – the Packers are allowing 140.6 yards per game (26th) and 4.80 yards per carry (27th).
Ryan Tannehill and the Passing Offense
Things are going to be different right in front Titans QB Ryan Tannehill, as center Ben Jones is out for Thursday night's game with a concussion. So, that presents a challenge right out of the gate. The Titans have a plan up front, and protecting Tannehill – and blocking for Henry – will be key. Vrabel this week said the team would like to get tight end Chig Okonkwo more involved, so will this be the week we see more from the talented rookie? The reality is the Titans are going to need more across the board from all the pass catchers. Just four days after a 119-yard performance, what does WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine have in store for an encore? How about Treylon Burks in his second game back?
Lambo and Lambeau, and Special Teams
Josh Lambo at Lambeau? Yep, that's the biggest story on special teams for the Titans heading into this one after kicker Randy Bullock suffered a calf injury in pregame vs Denver. Bullock is out for tonight's game and the team signed the former Chargers and Jaguars kicker to take his place. Over his career, Lambo has connected on 128 of 147 field goal attempts (87.1%) with a career long of 59 yards and tallied 527 career points. The Titans will need another solid performance from punter Ryan Stonehouse and the team's coverage teams as well.
The Titans didn't help themselves in their 2020 visit to Lambeau, as Tannehill was picked off twice and the Packers made them pay. It was part of a forgettable night, as the Titans fell behind 19-0 early en route to a 40-14 loss. The Titans have done a nice job forcing turnovers this season, and through nine games eight different Titans have at least one interception. The Titans don't need to give Green Bay any easy ones, and this would be another way to frustrate Rodgers, who has thrown seven picks so far.
And, here's a bonus item ...
Importance of Week 11
The Titans are slight underdogs tonight against the Packers. In recent weeks I've been rolling out the playoff percentages with a win, or loss, and I'm going to keep doing so because I love the numbers. A win on Thursday would improve Tennessee's record to 7-3, and since 1990, teams with a 7-3 mark after 10 games have made the playoffs 84.6% of the time, they've won their division 53.1% of the time, and they've won the Super Bowl 6.2% of the time. Meanwhile, teams that have started 6-4 have made the playoffs just 59.1% of the time, they've won their division just 24.5% of the time, and they've won the Super Bowl just 1.9% of the time. The Titans, of course, are just worried about finding a way to win tonight at Lambeau Field.