Countdown to Kickoff: Two Packers-Titans X-Factors

Looking beyond the obvious, here are two X-factors – one for each team – who could play key roles on Sunday night.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – You know the big names for Sunday’s big game between the Green Bay Packers (11-3) and Tennessee Titans (10-4) at Lambeau Field. In a clash of two of the top offenses in the NFL, it’s Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones and Davante Adams for Green Bay, and Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill and A.J. Brown for the Titans.

Looking beyond the obvious, here are two X-factors – one for each team – who could play key roles on Sunday night.

Green Bay: G Lucas Patrick

Tennessee’s best front-seven defender is defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons. The weakest link on Green Bay’s excellent offensive line is guard Lucas Patrick.

The dynamic Simmons and the feisty Patrick figure to line up across from each other frequently.

Simmons has three sacks and is tied for 16th among interior linemen with 36 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.

He was a first-round pick in 2019 out of Mississippi State, where he was teammates with Packers guard Elgton Jenkins.

“Jeffery, he’s a very dynamic player, real good,” Jenkins said. “Practices at Mississippi State, we went back and forth – me playing center, him playing the nose guard – so every day I seen him. We used to always give each other a battle. I’m glad and happy that I’ll be able to play him this Sunday in a live game.”

Patrick will see plenty of Simmons, too, and he’ll need to be on top of his game. After not giving up a sack in 11 games at right guard, he’s struggled since shifting to left guard upon center Corey Linsley’s knee injury. He’s allowed three sacks in those three games, including two last week against Carolina. If Linsley returns this week, Patrick would shift back to right guard. Would he return to form or struggle with the change?

Tennessee: RB Darrynton Evans

The Titans will ride the mammoth Henry against Green Bay’s suspect run defense but watch out for Evans, a third-round pick, as a change-of-pace element and special-teams weapon.

Much like his rookie counterpart, Green Bay’s AJ Dillon, Evans has made almost no impact as a rookie. He missed time early in the season with a groin injury and then missed eight games with an injured hamstring. He returned last week and was featured against Detroit. In 13 snaps, he got the ball 10 times with eight carries for 30 yards and two catches for 27 yards and one touchdown.

“It was definitely relieving,” Evans said this week. “I’ve been looking forward to getting on the field all year, ended up not going my way. It felt really good to contribute to the team and help get a win. Hopefully [I can provide] a lot of plays. Go wherever they need me, whether it’s special teams, offense, and produce.”

As a senior at Appalachian State, Evans joined Stanford's Christian McCaffrey (2015) and East Carolina's Chris Johnson (2007) as the only FBS players since 2000 with at least 1,400 rushing yards, five touchdown receptions and a kickoff-return touchdown in the same season. In his final two seasons, he had 11 carries of 50-plus yards. For his career, he had three touchdowns on kickoff returns.

“He has some speed, some youth, some versatility,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said in a conference call. “We’ll see where he fits in this week and we’ll see what his role might look like going forward.”

Countdown To Kickoff

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Four Days; Four Views from Inside the Titans

Three Days: Three Reasons to Worry

Elgton Jenkins: His Best Position

Offensive Juggernauts Collide

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