- WHERE: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wisc.)
- WHEN: 8:15 p.m. ET | Prime Video, NFL+
When the schedule makers landed on the Week 11 meeting of the Titans and Packers back in the spring, there were a lot of appealing storylines.
- Last season’s top two conference seeds.
- Aaron Rodgers and Derrick Henry.
- Two head coaches with terrific winning percentages, one of which worked for the other a few years ago.
It made sense then, and some of it still makes sense now. It’s just that the two teams have had to grind their way to where they are now.
The Packers started their season 3-1, but they fell apart thereafter and lost five straight games prior to a Week 10 overtime win over the Cowboys. It was the first time Rodgers had thrown for three touchdown passes since Week 15 of last season.
The Titans started 0-2 but have rallied to win five straight prior to a gut-shot loss to the Chiefs in Week 9. Tennessee rebounded last week to beat the Broncos in the return of Ryan Tannehill, who missed two games due to an ankle injury. But Henry, who had carried the team most of the season, was held in check by Denver.
The Titans-Packers history isn’t a long one, with the two franchises having met 13 times since 1972 back when the Titans were the Houston Oilers. In recent meetings between the teams, there have been offensive fireworks with the winning club scoring 40-plus points in four of the last five games, including each of the last three.
That doesn’t feel as likely this time around. Although the Packers notched their first 30-point outing last week, they’d averaged 15.8 PPG during the five-game losing streak.
The Titans haven’t scored more than 24 points in a game all season and haven’t topped the 20-point mark since Week 5. The difference has been that Tennessee has won six of seven games since starting 0-2.
Mike Vrabel’s team has won with defense and ball control all season. Can his Titans defense keep Matt LaFleur (Vrabel's offensive coordinator in 2018) and the Packers offense in check? Or have the Packers rediscovered some life as they creep back toward .500?
Here are four things to watch for when the Titans visit the Packers on Thursday night on Prime Video:
- Derrick Henry will be the focus for Green Bay defensively. Henry had been on a tear prior to last week, rushing 149 times for 763 yards and eight touchdowns, also catching 14 passes for 140 yards, in the previous six games. He also had ripped off five consecutive 100-yard games, including 219 yards and two scores in a grind-it-out win over the Texans. But the Broncos clamped down on Henry, allowing only 53 yards on 19 carries (including 16 yards on eight first-half totes). Since holding the Bucs to 34 yards rushing in Week 3, the Packers have allowed 152.3 rush yards per game. The defense is badly banged up, but that’s just too much to give up. The Packers will likely flood the box and dare the Titans to throw the ball, and Green Bay did have some success slowing down Henry in 2020, when he had only 35 rush yards at halftime before the Packers blew the game open.
- Titans' pass rush could be an issue for Green Bay. Slowly but surely, the Packers have put the pieces back together on their offensive line and have shown better results in terms of protecting Rodgers. After he’d been sacked 15 times over the first five games of the season, Rodgers has only been sacked four times in the past five. But Green Bay is still allowing too many pressures, and in comes an opponent that can generate them with the best in the NFL. The Titans have a sack rate of 7.95%, which is only 13th-best in the league. But they also generate a lot of pressures and QB hits -- and do so without the need to blitz often. Even with Harold Landry (ACL) lost the for the season, the Titans have five players with three or more sacks, led by Denico Autry (seven), Jeffery Simmons and Rashad Weaver (5.5 apiece). The Packers had only 22 dropbacks last week, and Rodgers was taken down twice. We might see another RB-heavy game for Green Bay offensively.
- Ryan Tannehill is a big key for the Titans. Tennessee’s 20-17 loss at Kansas City two weeks ago was all the more painful considering Tannehill had to sit it out with an ankle injury. In his place, rookie Malik Willis struggled to generate much in the pass game. It was a similar issue Willis had in a close win over the Texans. With Tannehill back last week, the Titans’ offensive output -- 17 points -- was on par with recent outings. But even in a rusty performance, Tannehill had far more success throwing vertically, and he compensated for Denver taking Henry out of the game effectively. The Packers have been respectable against the pass this season despite a slew of injuries on defense, making several big plays last week including two interceptions by new starting safety Rudy Ford and the key fourth-down stop in overtime.
- Is new Packers weapon Christian Watson for real or a one-game wonder? When the Packers moved up to draft Watson in Round 2 this past spring, it was an indication that he could be a big part of Green Bay’s passing game after the team traded Davante Adams. Watson’s season got off to an interesting start. He dropped a would-be 75-yard TD on his first series of the season and was held to three or fewer catches in his first six games. But Watson looked like a future star last week with TD catches of 58, 39 and 7 yards, the latter two coming in the fourth quarter after the Packers had fallen behind by 14 points. Watson's speed is unquestioned, but ironing out the little details in his game had held Watson back previously. How will he handle a tough, physical Titans secondary that loves to press and hit? It will be very telling.