By: Bill Tewes, Mark Prott & Jim Boyce
The Packers are on a two game skid coming off an embarrassing home loss to the Colts. They head to Music City to take on the 4-5 Titans, can they get back to winning ways?
TITANS 23 PACKERS 19
The last time these two teams played it was a laugher. Those days feel like ancient history right now, as the Packers are coming off a game in which they looked like they didn’t even want to be on the field. Getting beat down by a 3-5 Colts team at home was about as low as the Packers have ever been in the Rodgers era. The offense was stagnant until the Colts, already a bad defense, let their guard down when it was 31-13. James Starks might be back to give Green Bay an actual running back, that could help. In the end though Rodgers will have to play like a premier player for the Packers to win, a proposition that’s been hit and miss this season.
The Titans offense is lead by it’s running game and a rejuvenated DeMarco Murray. Green Bay’s defense has been good against the run, but this will still be a huge test and I do not expect them to completely shutdown Murray. Marcus Mariota is a bright young QB who has played very well over the last month. The Packers will have to account for him on the ground as well as through the air. Delanie Walker should feast in the middle of the field as the Packers haven’t shown much of an ability to stop Tight Ends this season. Clay Matthews is out again, and the secondary won’t be in any better shape than it has been the last couple weeks.
The Packers are 4-4 and have looked every bit as average as that record indicates. For a team that was a preseason favorite it has been a pretty disappointing first half. A win would keep them afloat in what is suddenly a bad NFC North, but after what we saw last Sunday I can’t give them the benefit of the doubt.
PACKERS 26 TITANS 24
After watching the Packers train-wreck performance against the Colts last week, it is again becoming apparent much like most of last season that the Packers are vulnerable to lose any week no matter the opponent. They are simply too up and down on both sides of the ball and special teams now for that matter to be trusted with any confidence anymore. The Titans sitting at 4-5 have also had their good and bad moments this year but one thing’s for sure, they are building their talent base and seem to be headed in the right direction.
Marcus Mariota is as talented as can be at quarterback and has made a jump this year in production. The Titans have wisely used two first round picks in recent years on bookend offensive tackles in Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin to fortify an above average offensive line, which will be blocking for two above average running backs in Murray and Henry. I could see the Packers defense having their hands full against this ground and pound offense of the Titans as the defense has looked very average since Clay Matthews has been sidelined. Don’t forget Mariota is a major run threat too.
The Packers offense still looks stagnant and in search of an identity. It seemed like the passing game was headed in the right direction with the short passing game approach until they faced the Colts and laid a stinker. Aaron Rodgers numbers didn’t look awful last week but that was more due to garbage stats against a soft Colts defense trying to preserve a lead. How about for once Mike McCarthy, Rodgers, and the rest of the offense come out of the gates in the first quarter with the same urgency that they seem to so often possess when they’re down 14 in the fourth quarter?
If the Packers want to make any noise this year and salvage the season they need to play the Titans with a punch-em in the mouth mentality. The Titans possess a vulnerable secondary but that’s on paper. The receivers still need to do a better job of getting open and Rodgers needs to actually connect when they’re open. I see this game going down to the wire and a last second field goal could prove to be the difference in what is a must win game for the Packers.
PACKERS 24 TITANS 20
The Green Bay Packers are facing a Tennessee Titans offense that is ranked 4th overall in the entire NFL. It is usually the other way around, that the Packers are ranked top five in offense and typically dominate their opponents. The Packers face a unique challenge this week, as the Titans have picked up some serious traction with running back DeMarco Murray showing that his 2014 rushing title was no fluke. The Packers still boast the top run defense in the league, but face a unique challenge as the Titans run game is going to be the best they’ve faced since Ezekiel Elliot and the Cowboys a few weeks ago.
As far as injuries are concerned, the Titans are about as healthy as any team could be 10 weeks into the season. Green Bay on the other hand can barely scrap together enough players to field a team. Clay Matthews will miss another game (his 4th this season) and corner back/safety Micah Hyde is questionable and that normally would not be a huge concern, but with starters Sam Shields and Damarious Randall out, we will need every backup corner on this roster.
If Green Bay loses this game, I think it is safe to say the nail will be 3/4th of the way into the coffin. Marcus Mariota, while impressive, is still only in his sophomore season and there is no reason for anyone to believe that Titans’ head coach Mike Mularkey will out-coach Mike McCarthy. But even with all of that being said, this game will be ugly. I think Green Bay will barely win and improve to 5-4, but only if they are able to contain Murray (under 100 yards) and get some pressure (please, any pressure) on Mariota.