Preview: Packers at Tennessee Titans

Mike Tanier has a good Packers/Titans preview up, and I love the Tubby Thunder reference:

"The Packers are coming off their bye week. They are healthier than they have been since the start of the season, and Al Harris may actually return from the spleen injury that threatened his career. Harris will have minimal impact against a team that never throws to its receivers. The Packers need a big week from their run defense, which is ranked 29th in the NFL in DVOA. If they cannot find a way to stop Tubby Thunder and Greased Lightning, they'll get lulled into a downtempo game where one big play by the Titans defense could turn the tide.

I'm still a Titans doubter, but I like their matchup this week."

I've been focused on the run offense in this game too (Tennessee can run/Packers can't stop the run) and it's part of Mitchell's preview. The statistical analysis, rankings from Football Outsiders.com, indicates that the Titans' defense stops everything, the Packers defense stops the pass, but can't stop the run, so Titans win:

Teams Run Offense Pass Offense Run Defense Pass Defense
Packers 25 11 29 2
Tennessee 9 20 8 1

Instead I'm focused on what I saw during last Monday night game when Indianapolis played at Tennessee.

  1. Indianapolis is similar to Green Bay this season; can't run (since RB Joseph Addai was hurt), quarterback is struggling with injuries, run defense is awful, and pass defense is solid. Still the game was tied going into the 4th quarter, and the game changing plays were two questionable 4th down conversion attempts by Indianapolis that failed. If Indianapolis can play Tennessee tight for three quarters, the Packers can.
  2. Eight men in the box. Indianapolis knew they had to stop Tennessee from running, so they brought a safety in the box as an extra linebacker. Tennessee should have made them pay and challenged them deep down the field. But they didn't. According to the NFL.com game log, Collins had three passes listed as "pass deep" in the 2nd half. He completed one for 23 yard, but the other two were incomplete. The Packers can stop any NFL run defense if they are allowed to play eight men in the box. Defensive coordinator Bob Sanders will probably play his base defense at first, making sure Tennessee hasn't changed their mind and started opening up the vertical passing game, but at some point he should start crowding the line of scrimmage and make it difficult for Tennessee's offense to do anything.

The Packers will need a big play or two to win on the road against a great team. Maybe S Nick Collins has another big INT. Maybe CB Will Blackmon scores on a return against Tennessee's below average special teams unit, currently ranked 23rd by Football Outsiders.

It has to help that the Packers are rested and healthy since they are coming off the bye week, while Tennessee has a short week after playing last Monday night.

This game might be a replay of the week 4 loss at Tampa when the Packers traveled south to play a great team and were soundly beat. QB Brian Griese threw 3 INTs in that game which kept the score close, but the Packers were beaten in almost every other way possible during that game. But the Packers are a good team, with a good coaching staff, and they can win this game. I've got no score prediction. This one is up to the Packers and whether they play like the team that got kicked around in Tampa, or the one that did the kicking two weeks ago against Indianapolis.

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