Packers vs Titans: Gameday Preview - 2022 Week 11

The Packers aren't dead... but they might be if they don't win tonight. Do they have what it takes?

WHEN THE TITANS HAVE THE BALL

Derrick Henry.

That's it.

Ryan Tannehill isn't a terrible quarterback, but he's not a field-tilter. At best, he's an efficient game manager. He has a couple talented targets in Robert Woods and Treylon Burks (though unheralded Nick Westbrook-Ikhine has been their most productive receiver), but his wide receivers are mostly complementary guys. Even tight end Austin Hooper is kind of "meh" when it comes to ranking among NFL peers.

Plus, the Titans have what is considered pretty much the worst pass-blocking offensive line in the NFL.

Their passing offense is nothing to fear.

A couple weeks ago, when Malik Willis started for an injured Ryan Tannehill, they passed for 57 yards against the Chiefs. The week before that under Willis, they passed for just 40 yards against the Texans. That's unimaginably abysmal. Anyone who thinks the Packers have the worst receiving corps in the league needs to check out the Titans roster.  Even in 4 of their 7 games with Ryan Tannehill, they failed to pass for even 140 yards. 

But, they do have Derrick Henry.

He started the season slow by his standards, with a respectable 192 yards in the first 3 games. Then, he found his stride and rushed for 678 yards in the next 5 games. Last week, the Broncos were finally able to slow him down, holding him to 53 yards on 19 carries for just 2.8 yards per carry. 

The Packers were able to limit Henry the last time they played him, too. He had nearly 100 yards, but he never broke a long one and was held out of the end zone, which is a pretty solid outing when grading on a curve.

Tonight, their assignment is the same: limit Derrick Henry.

That could be a tall order with De'Vondre Campbell out. Bringing up a safety or hoping for Krys Barnes or Isaiah McDuffie to make up the difference might not be enough. Quay Walker is a great sideline to sideline pursuit backer, but he weights nearly 10 pounds less than Henry.

With Rashan Gary out, it get harder to hold the edge. Gary racked up great pass pressure numbers, but was also a force against the run and held a strong edge. Kingsley Enagbare has shown some nice pass rush ability, but he's 20 pounds lighter than Rashan Gary and could struggle holding the point.

Last week, Darnell Savage worked out well in the slot in pass coverage, but tonight, the Packers won't need to be nearly as concerned with the slot passing game as they should be with off-tackle runs, where Savage's unwillingness to stick his nose into contact could be a big liability. Jaire Alexander is always ready to get physical, but last year he was lost for the season trying to tackle 6'1, 231 power back Najee Harris. Derrick Henry makes Harris look smallish with his 6'3 247 pound frame. Alexander measures in at 5'10, 196.

The Packers need to be careful with perimeter run defense. They like to use Dean Lowry to hold the edge and we'll probably see a lot of that. He's a strong end that can hold up against power run schemes. Jarran Reed will also be counted on to fill gaps. Kenny Clark is always the cornerstone of Green Bay's run defense, but if we were going to see meaningful snaps from TJ Slaton or Jonathan Ford, tonight would be the night.

The Titans will be without starting center Ben Jones, who might be their best offensive lineman and is a big part of the run game. This will make things a little easier on the Packers, but Henry is capable of creating on his own. 

Gang tackling will determine the game.

 

WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL

The Packers offense found some balance and came to life against the Cowboys.

Aside from Christian Watson's 3 touchdown coming out party, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon fueled the highly-productive ground game we've been waiting to see.

They have a tougher test against the Titans.

The Titans defense ranks 8th in points, but only 23rd in yards. At first glance, it looks like teams move the ball, but don't score. A big part of that is because the Titans rank 4th in opponents average starting position.

A bigger factor might be the teams that Tennessee has faced. Their wins came against the Raiders, Colts (twice), Commanders, Texans, and Broncos. The Commanders are looking solid, but the rest of those teams are hot garbage with offenses in complete disarray.

The defense has set up their wins (all of which were one-score games, except for their 9-point win over the Colts) by stopping the run. They rank 2nd in the league in rushing yards allowed and have given up an average of 58 rushing yards per game in their wins. In their losses, they've allowed an average of 139 rushing yards per game.

Jones and Dillon will need to be productive for the Packers to win tonight.

The key to winning football is balance, though, and the Packer should have no problem passing if they can get their run game going.

The Titans rank 31st in passing yards allowed. The Packers inconsistent aerial attack had one of its best-looking games of the year against Dallas. With the Titans cornerback group of Kristian Fulton (with a 4.46 40-yard dash), Roger McCreary (4.5), Elijah Molden (4.51), and Terrance Mitchell (4.63) all lacking elite speed, Christian Watson (4.36) could be in line for another big day. Romeo Doubs will miss the game, but Randall Cobb will return to give the Packers another weapon.

Aaron Rodgers will need time, though, and the Titans have an intimidating pass rush. With 3 players ranking in the top 24 for sacks (even though they already had their bye), they have one of the more fearsome fronts in the league.

Bud Dupree is out for the Titans, but Jefferey Simmons, who missed practice time this week, but will play tonight. He's a monster inside and can wreck a gameplan all by himself if he isn't accounted for. Disruption up front sets the tone for their defense. Look for Josh Myers to combo block him all night.

The Packers will need to get the run game working to slow the pass rush and mix in some quick short passes to keep the chains moving. There will be opportunities for deep balls, but the Packers will need to lean on a patient, balanced attack if they want to make progress against this defense.

 

OTHER NOTES

The Titans did not use their allotment of team tickets, so Lambeau should have a great home crowd advantage

The Titans defense has registered a takeaway in 7 straight games  

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Packers were left for dead after a 5 game losing streak, but Aaron Rodgers reminded everyone that they aren't dead, so now there's a return of championship chatter for this 4-6 squad with a 7% chance to make the playoffs.

But the analytics and math don't matter. All that matters right now is lining up from the guy across from you and beating him.

Emotion and momentum play a big part in that and the thrilling OT win against the Cowboys gave the Packers both of those things.

This game won't be easy, and Derrick Henry will test their resolve from opening kickoff to final whistle, but I think the Packers will reach down and find what they need.

Continuing to build on offensive balance, I think the Packers grind out enough points. On defense, I expect a swarm around Derrick Henry every time he touches the ball. The Titans might get a chunk or two passing the ball on busted coverage, but I think the secondary can hold it down with an extra man in the box.

The Packers resolve will be tested, and it will pass.

Packers 20, Titans 13

 

 

Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

 

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Comments (3)

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Leatherhead's picture

November 17, 2022 at 03:32 pm

The Titans are not an offensive powerhouse. They’re 26th in scoring and 31st in first downs. They’ve never scored more than 24 and they’ve been held to 20 or less six times in nine games. They’ve averaged 17 in five road games

Henry averages 4.9 yards per touch. Tannehill averages over 7 yards per attempt. So I’d rather see Henry with the ball than Tannehill.

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Lphill's picture

November 17, 2022 at 04:04 pm

Maybe 3 D lineman and Amos playing up ?

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Leatherhead's picture

November 17, 2022 at 05:06 pm

Why? It’s better for us if they run. And they aren’t scoring points.

Except in short yardage and in the redzone.

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