NASHVILLE – The Titans face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
Here's a look at six things to watch:
Running back Derrick Henry has recorded at least 100 rushing yards in nine consecutive road games, and with 100 yards on Sunday night he'd match the NFL record held by Hall of Famer Barry Sanders (10 consecutive games from 1996-97). Henry, who has 1,679 rushing yards on the season, also needs just 19 rushing yards to rank third on the franchise's all-time single-season rushing list, passing Earl Campbell's 1979 total of 1,697 yards. He would trail only Chris Johnson (2,006 in 2009) and Campbell (1,934 in 1980). The Packers are ranked 11th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (110.1), but 21st in yards allowed per attempt (4.55). On a cold night in Green Bay, the Titans are going to need Henry once again.
Slow Down Aaron Rodgers
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one of the game's very best, and he's having another MVP-type season. Rodgers has thrown for 3,828 yards, with 40 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He has a dangerous target in receiver Davante Adams (1,186 yards, 14 touchdowns) and another touchdown producer in tight end Robert Tonyan, who caught his 10th receiving touchdown past week. He's the first GB tight end since Keith Jackson in 1996 with 10-plus TDs in a single season. So, what can the Titans, a defense with just 14 sacks in 14 games, do to slow the NFL's 8th ranked passing attack down? Well, Rodgers has seen it all, so he won't be fooled. No matter the plan, the Titans better execute.
The Titans, of course, have a potent offense themselves. Through 14 weeks, the Titans are ranked second in the NFL in total offense (yards), and first in points. The Titans have generated at least 30 points and 420-plus yards in five consecutive games, and they're one of just five teams to do so. If the Titans are able to reach those marks on Sunday night, they'd become the first team in NFL history with at least 30 points and 420-plus yards of total offense in six consecutive games. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who admitted this week he felt he deserved Pro Bowl recognition, will aim to keep his hot streak (31 TDs, 5 INTs, 110.4 rating) while proving his point vs the Packers. A.J. Brown, Corey Davis and the team's other playmakers will be challenged by a scrappy Packers secondary.
Packers Run Game
So, I mentioned the Packers are 8th in the NFL in passing offense. Well, would you believe they're also 8th in the NFL in rushing offense? Yes, slowing down Green Bay's offense is a multi-faceted problem. Packers running back Aaron Jones has 968 yards and eight touchdowns on the season, and Jamaal Williams has 479 yards and a pair of scores himself. What makes these backs even more dangerous is they also catch the ball out of the backfield – Jones has 41 catches and two TDs, and Williams has 31 catches for another score. The Titans, ranked 15th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, struggled some in run defense last week. They'll need to be better on Sunday night.
The Titans forced a pair of turnovers last Sunday against the Lions, and it helped them improve to 3-0 against NFC North teams. Taking care of the football will be key on Sunday because these two teams have used the takeaway/giveaway category to their benefit all season. The Titans are a plus-12 (nine giveaways vs 21 takeways), which is tied for first in the NFL. The Packers, meanwhile, are a plus five. On a cold night, holding on to the football – and not making it easy for the Packers by giving them a short field – will be important.
Big Stage, Big Opportunity
Lambeau Field is a special place, but on Sunday night it will be different without fans. Still, it's Sunday Night Football, and there's a lot on the line for the Titans in prime time. At this point, the Titans aren't focused on putting on a good show on national TV. The mindset is this simple: Just win, and earn a playoff spot in the process. It remains to be seen what could be on the line on Sunday night. A Colts loss to the Steelers earlier on Sunday would give the Titans a chance to win the AFC South title with a win against the Packers. A Titans win paired with a Colts win, and the Titans would clinch at least a playoff spot. No matter what's on the line, the Titans shouldn't have any trouble with motivation on Sunday night.