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Packers vs. Titans: Three Reasons for Hope

The Green Bay Packers will host the Tennessee Titans on Thursday at Lambeau Field. The Packers are coming off a big win. Here’s why they’ll make it back-to-back big wins.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers earned a huge victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday to snap a five-game losing streak. Was that a turn-around-the-season victory? Or was it in any-given-Sunday performance?

“You’ve got to consistently go out there and do it, and I think we’re fully capable, but we got a great challenge this week,” coach Matt LaFleur said this week of facing the Tennessee Titans.

There are some obvious reasons to worry, starting with hulking running back Derrick Henry. Here are three reasons for optimism that last week’s victory was more than a blip on the radar but the start of something bigger.

1. Going Deep

The Titans’ defense is really good. It’s allowed 17.7 points per game the last six weeks. Tennessee allowed 41 points in a blowout loss to Buffalo in Week 2 but only 40 points the last three games. However, their five wins the last six games came against Indianapolis (twice), Washington, Houston and Denver. Those aren’t great offenses, to state the obvious.

Green Bay’s offense hasn’t been great, either, but Christian Watson had a breakout three-touchdown performance against Dallas. Two of those came on deep passes by Aaron Rodgers.

According to SportRadar, the Titans have given up a league-worst 20 completions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. The 50 percent completion rate on those passes ranks fifth-worst. Those are the headlines for a pass defense that ranks 31st in passing yards (but 18th in yards per attempt).

The mere threat of Watson should help open up things underneath for Rodgers, who was 16-of-19 passing last week when drops were turned into completions and a throwaway was discarded.

“Obviously, they’re going to have to cover the whole field, which will only open up other guys, open up the run game a bit more,” Watson said. “Obviously, going forward, just be able to continue to stretch the field more and make defenses cover all 11.”

One reason why Watson had such a big game is because of the running of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. The Titans have a top run defense but Jones is No. 1 and Dillon is tied for No. 2 in percentage of carries resulting in more yards gained than expected, according to Zebra Sports, which powers Next Gen Stats.

2. Playing 1-D Chess

You know the phrase about playing four-dimensional chess. That’s high-level stuff. The Packers can go one-dimensional on defense in hopes of taking away the indomitable Henry.

Stopping Henry is the obvious key to everything. In the Titans’ three losses, he’s got three runs of 10-plus yards and forced seven missed tackles. In the Titans’ six wins, he’s got 21 runs of 10-plus yards and forced 33 missed tackles. It needs to be a role call to the ball.

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Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill is 23rd in completion percentage (62.6 percent). Robert Woods leads a nondescript receiver corps with 24 catches for 266 yards and one touchdown. This year’s first-round pick, Treylon Burks, who returned from injured reserve last week, has 13 receptions for 153 yards and only one catch of more than 16 yards. Nick Westbrook-Ikhine had five receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns last week vs Denver. He’s got receptions of 63 and 61 yards this year.

With a pop-gun passing attack and shoddy pass protection (29th in sack percentage), Tennessee is a woeful 28th on third down.

If Green Bay’s secondary can win those perimeter matchups, the rest of the defense can focus on Henry in hopes of cutting the legs out from the Tennessee offense.

3. At Home in the Cold

Green Bay has won nine consecutive home games under the primetime lights. It will be a Packers weather – whatever that means considering the playoff loss – with a kickoff temperature of about 24.

Those things should work in Green Bay’s favor. In theory, Henry could render all that null and void, but the Titans are 0-2 with a kickoff temperature of less than 32 during coach Mike Vrable’s four-plus seasons. One of those was Green Bay’s blowout win in 2020, when it was 28 at kickoff.

Moreover, the Titans are banged up. Outside linebacker Bud Dupree, safety Amani Hooker and center Ben Jones are out. Top offensive tackle Taylor Lewan is on injured reserve, so they’ll be down two members of their formidable offensive line.

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