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Packers vs. Titans: Things You Could Watch and a Prediction

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Packers vs. Titans: Things You Could Watch and a Prediction

The Green Bay Packers (10-4) are two wins and one San Francisco 49ers' loss away from securing a first-round bye in the 2012-13 NFC playoffs.

The first part of that equation begins Sunday, when the Tennessee Titans (5-9) travel to snowy Green Bay for a Week 16 matchup. With a win over the Titans and another next Sunday against Minnesota Vikings, plus a 49ers' loss to either the Seattle Seahawks or Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay would jump ahead of San Francisco for the NFC's No. 2 seed.

The Packers could also jump the Atlanta Falcons (12-2) for the top seed, but Atlanta would need to lose both its final two games (Detroit, Tampa Bay).

For any byes scenarios to have a chance of unfolding in Week 17, Green Bay first needs to take care of business against the Titans Sunday.

Here are some other things you could watch:

Cobb Approaching Historic Numbers

With two games left, Packers receiver Randall Cobb is approaching some lofty numbers. The 22-year-old has 2,241 all-purpose yards this season, which leaves him nine yards short of Ahman Green's franchise record (2,250) and 454 of the NFL's all-time record (Darren Sproles, 2,696). Sproles' record might be tough to get, but the franchise record could fall on the opening kickoff Sunday.

Cobb could also become the first in NFL history to accomplish a production double Sunday.

With 108 receiving yards and 36 kick-return yards against the Titans, Cobb would become the first player in NFL history with 1,000 receiving yards and 1,000 kick-return yards in the same season. Considering kickoffs are on the NFL's endangered species list, and only a handful of returners have reached 1,000 return yards since kickoffs were shortened last season, Cobb could become the first and the last to pull off the feat.

Youth Improvement

The Titans are allowing 368.9 yards and 28.3 points per game on defense, but this is a unit that is playing much better than its overall numbers indicate. According to ESPN, Tennessee is third in total defense (285.3 yards) and fourth in scoring defense (17.6 points) since falling 51-20 to Chicago in early November.

In linebackers Colin McCarthy, Zach Brown and Akeem Ayers, plus defensive end Derrick Morgan and cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty, the Titans have young, encouraging building blocks on defense. And after facing slower, older defenses from the NFC North the past three weeks, it will interesting to see how the Packers handle a fast but inexperienced look from the Titans' improving defense Sunday.

Minnesota 2.0

The Titans have a very Vikings-like feel on offense. Chris Johnson, maybe the game's top home-run hitter at the running back position, is the focal point of Tennessee's entire operation. He's obviously not having a season that approaches Adrian Peterson's, but 1,159 rushing yards and a 4.8-yard average is nothing to sneeze at.

Despite Johnson's presence and production, the Titans still win and lose games via the arm of young quarterback Jake Locker. Drafted four spots ahead of Christian Ponder, Locker has two games with a passer rating over 90.0 this season. The Titans are 2-0 in those games. And in games where Locker had a final passer rating under 70.0, Tennessee was outscored by an average of almost 22 points.

Johnson can get his 100 yards rushing, but frustrating Locker in the passing game is the winning key for the Packers' defense. It's the same blueprint against Ponder, Peterson and the Vikings.

Raji's Reemergence 

Thanks to injuries, the Titans have been forced to shuffle the interior of their offensive line. Fernando Velasco is likely to start at his original position of center, while recent signing Mitch Petrus would then start at left guard. Petrus was claimed off waivers from the Patriots, who released him on Dec. 3.

The shuffling could open up an opportunity for B.J. Raji to continue his late-season surge. Raji might have played his best game of the 2012 season against the Bears last Sunday, but he's been playing well for the better part of the last two months. Another dominating performance would be a welcome sign for a Packers defense that needs Raji to be the pocket collapsing force he was during the Super Bowl run.

Matchup to Watch: Titans DE Derrick Morgan vs. Packers RT Don Barclay

The Titans have struggled rushing the passer for most of the last two seasons, but don't fault Morgan in 2012. According to Pro Football Focus, the left defensive end has six sacks, 19 quarterback hits and 38 hurries this season. Morgan's 63 total quarterback disruptions are in the top 10 for 4-3 defensive ends. Opposite Morgan Sunday will be Barclay, who should make his third straight start at right tackle. Over 183 snaps there this season, Barclay has allowed just one sack. More help should come Barclay's way Sunday, but he's proven capable of handling his duties against good pass rushers this season. Morgan is his latest test.

Prediction

With the division title in hand and an uncommon opponent on board, the door might be cracked open for the Packers to stumble early. But Green Bay is a better team, with a lot still to play for and a home-field advantage amplified by the northern weather. As Bob McGinn pointed out this week, the Titans were served a 59-0 throttling in their last cold weather game. This scoreline won't come close to that, but the Packers should get to 11-4 with a comfortable win.

Packers 30, Titans 13 (Season record: 9-5)

Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at zachkruse2@gmail.com.

Comments (58)

hayward4president's picture

I love cold weather games. 25 degrees sounds brutal. Give the boy from Hawaii the rock n let him rumble hahaha.....ahhhh irony.

Evan's picture

Wait...the Titans are gonna start two centers?? Why haven't the Packers thought of that??

Zach Kruse's picture

Good catch, Evan, and thanks. You could have been much more harsh ;)

Evan's picture

I would never! Ha

EP66's picture

Zach...isnt Clay's cousin a second center for the Titans besides his uncle being O Line coach?

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

37-13 PACK.

GBP 4 LIFE

Evan's picture

Exactly what I was thinking.

Point Packer's picture

I'm actually a bit more worried about this one than others. Titans defense has stiffened as of late. Packers may get complacent after locking up the North. Chris Johnson could cause us trouble if he gets in a groove. Bad conditions are a great equalizer in the NFL.

Packers 24-19 in yet another sloppy one.

Cow42 1/2's picture

Titans 89-2

Zach Kruse's picture

Props on the name, and comment!

murphy's picture

You give the Packers more credit than the real Cow would. I mean, a safety? With that pass rush!?!?!

Cow42 1/2's picture

Locker/Johnson botch a handoff, offensive line-man unknowingly kicks it into the endzone, Kenny Britt falls on top of it and is touched by J. Bush.

Denver's picture

Yeah, I could see where #24 would be on the field with the Pack down 89-0.

Rocky70's picture

The worst part of the 89-2 prediction is that GB is up at half by 2-0. Actually, the Titans have little chance of winning this game. GB 27 & the Titans 10. Look for Harris to run for 100+.

cow42's picture

take a look at the Packers' offensive line for this weekend.

and then go ahead and tell me that the Titans have little chance.

Rocky70's picture

I like to believe the Titans have no chance but I also have to agree. The OL could very well be GB's achilles' heel. Although I'd rather see the OL bomb this week than in playoff game number one.

GBPDAN's picture

Pack wins at home which sets up a must watch sunday nite football game. 49ers must lose, the second seed will be ours!

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Hawks owe us one, this week is the week to pay up. 12th man will be in a frenzy, I see many false starts and QB pressures against the 9ers. Hawks win a tight one.

cow42's picture

49ers by 14+

Point Packer's picture

Any rookie QB visiting the Clink is in a tough spot. Even seasoned MVP's (yes more than one) have had problems in that half opened box of noise this year.

After being at the Packers v Seahawks game and then given I'm a Seattle resident, absorbing a fair number of games by osmosis, I predict the Hawks pull this one out 24-21. This is a different Seahawks team than we saw on MNF and that Niners saw early in the season. Wilson has found a groove and the offense has opened up. Lynch is running as good or better than anyone in the League and that D is still tough. Add that the Clink is the loudest space I have ever been in, it all makes for a tight Seahawk win and a big game against the Vikes in week 17.

cow42's picture

qb won't matter.
49'ers can win without throwing more than 12 passes.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

They may win, but it won't be by 14+. I will put my $ where my mouth is... If you would like to name the bet? Loser sends the $ to Zach, Zach sends it to the winner. Name it.

cow42's picture

i've never bet $ on anything in my life.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Money, name it.

I bleed Green More's picture

They owed it to us in the previous game.

Point Packer's picture

"49?ers can win without throwing more than 12 passes."

No they can't.

cow42's picture

It will be a one score game.
Packers are not good enough to blow anyone out.
Titan's offense might actually be better suited for the cold/damp weather.

Hard to pick a Packers' loss here with how much is at stake... but we've all seen how the Packers' tend to play down to the level of their opponent. They are masters at making things more difficult than need be.

Hope it doesn't come down to Crosby.

cow42's picture

Oh - and the 49'ers will NOT lose to Seattle.
They are far and away the better team.

The playoffs are simply a formality this year.
Go ahead and send the trophy to SF right now.

They are just too good at the things that don't go away... great run game & great defense.

Pass - first teams can have "off" days.
Team's that rely on turnovers can hit a dry spell.
But a team that dominates the line of scrimmage will always dominate the line of scrimmage.

49'ers dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball better than any team I've ever seen.

Said it about 2 months ago... SB: 49'ers 24 - Pats 17.

24woc's picture

SF will NOT beat Seattle.

SB....GB 21 Denver 20...just saying now!

Tony's picture

That SF - SEA game will be like each team playing against themselves. Might be a little tougher for SEA given their CB situation, but that 12th man is a very real advantage. Kaepernick's never played there. Might be the difference in the game.

zeke's picture

As long as they don't have to play the Rams, apparently.

murphy's picture

"Pass – first teams can have “off” days.
Team’s that rely on turnovers can hit a dry spell.
But a team that dominates the line of scrimmage will always dominate the line of scrimmage."

Yes, this is why the 49ers are 14-0.

cow42's picture

ok you guys are right - "always" might be overstating it. but i think everyone can agree that like a good defense in basketball and a solid pitching staff in baseball - football teams that play shut down defense and can run effectively WHENEVER THEY WANT are less prone to "off" days. less fluctuation in their performance.

Evan's picture

See, when you don't speak in hyperbole and absolutes, you start to make sense.

No one is denying the 49ers are a great team, probably the best in the NFC/NFL. But everyone can be beat. And if recent history taught us anything, it's that the playoffs are never a formality.

cow42's picture

this year is a formality.

zeke's picture

So they didn't want to dominate the line of scrimmage or run effectively in the games they didn't win? That seems like a flaw rather than a formality.

Evan's picture

"this year is a formality."

I'm sorry, but that's just idiotic.

Norman's picture

"Packers are not good enough to blow anyone out."

Except apparently the Texans.

cow42's picture

Texans, Falcons, Packers, Ravens = pretenders.

Broncos, Patriots, Giants, 49'ers = contenders.

Evan's picture

But how did the contender Giants get blown away by the pretender Falcons?

cow42's picture

who would you pick in a playoff game?
be honest.

Evan's picture

Who vs who? Giants vs Falcons? Before last week I would have picked NYG. I've thought all season the Falcons were paper tigers. But that was a serious ass-whoopin. So come playoff time, who knows. I'd probably still pick NY but I wouldn't say it's a given or a formality. Which only proves my point. In the NFL, no game can be taken for granted, whether it's week 1 or the Super Bowl. No game is a formality in today's NFL.

packeraaron's picture

This is hilarious only because if cow was a Giants fan he'd be trolling one of their blogs talking about how the beat down in Atlanta proved how right all his negative bullshit is.

cow42's picture

Aaron - what's your SB prediction?

everyone knows mine.

packeraaron's picture

Back in March I picked Packers-Patriots. Now, it's probably Jets-Cardinals.

cow42's picture

ok.
here's the deal.
i want to start feeling better about this Packers team.
I want to start believing that they have any sort of chance of reaching the Super Bowl.

Someone please give me a REAL explanation as to why they can, because the way I see it the following flaws essentially eliminate them from contention...

ON OFFENSE...
-really bad offensive line
-below average running game
-defensive philosophy proven to stymie their offense (in other words - the book has been written on how to slow them down)
-too late for receivers and qb to get in rhythm (injuries to Nelson and Jennings. Jennings is a shell of himself & to think that Nelson will be effective after not playing for what will probably end up being 5 weeks is a pipe dream)

ON DEFENSE...
-lack of CONSISTENT qb pressure
-weak ILB play
-below average against the run
-too many young players at key positions

ON SPECIAL TEAMS...
-Crosby

With all of those problems... how can you look at this squad and think "yup - that looks like a Super Bowl contender"?

in my opinion "We have Rodgers" is not enough. that can be PART of your reasoning - but it can't be the whole kit-and-caboodle.

zeke's picture

"i want to start feeling better about this Packers team.
I want to start believing that they have any sort of chance of reaching the Super Bowl."

Why do you care what other people on this board think? You've already said that the playoffs are a formality, that SF is the most dominant team, etc., etc. If that's what you feel, go with it.

THEMichaelRose's picture

I'd agree with Zach's score prediction if it didn't imply that Crosby makes 3 FGs.
So I'll make my prediction, assuming he misses at least one more. 27-13.
I'll be at the game this week. Pretty pumped. Wish it was a better opponent to see in person, but at least it's Week 16 and the Packers are still playing for something.

Evan's picture

No matter the opponent, there is little better than a football game at Lambeau in late December.

Point Packer's picture

Only thing better

Evan's picture

Whoa - Jeff Saturday has been benched. The EDS era has started early.

Lucas's picture

Hello, I am Brazilian, fans of the Packers on Sunday and will destroy the small TITANS, GO PACK GO!

Doug In Sandpoint's picture

The greatest thing about this game is that I get to be there!!! First trip to Lambeau this year. Sitting in the north end zone about 20 yards wide left. Bet I catch a Crosby "try".

Steven's picture

Packers win 31-13
harris gets atleast 50 yards and a td. Add another pick to hayward, and 1.5 sacks for matthews.
Pretenders: cow

cow42's picture

Locker will out rush Harris.

Wiscokid's picture

This could be a good tune up game for the Packers before they see the Vikings and Peterson next week. Titans are one dimensional with a star running back and no real passing game.

cow42's picture

kiss of death.
now watch Locker throw for 300+.
Hell - Gabbert did it.

Steven's picture

Wanna bet?

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