3TFO: Titans @ Packers, Week 16
Late in the season there are always games like the one we are about to see in Green Bay. One team has plenty of reason to play, because a win will help with their playoff seeding and a loss will hurt it. For the other team, all they have to play for is pride. As long as the Packers properly prepare, there is all the reason in the world to predict another victory for the green and gold. However, if the Titans end up victorious, it will perpetuate the concept that trap games exist in the NFL.
Here are three matchups that Tennessee needs to win in order to end up with the road victory, although each matchup has varying likelihoods of Titans fans leaving happy.
Don Barclay vs. Derrick Morgan
When Bryan Bulaga was lost for the season, T.J. Lang took over at right tackle. Once he went down, it was undrafted rookie Don Barclay’s job. Although Lang has since returned, he is playing at his typical left guard position, which means Barlcay will likely start for the rest of the season. While he has been decent in run blocking, he has struggled in pass protection. He has a Pass Blocking Efficiency of 92.0, which, if he had enough snaps, would place him among the bottom five tackles in the league.
The Titans leave Derrick Morgan at defensive left end for 81.3% of the game, so Barclay will be head-to-head with Morgan for the majority of the contest. While he had a slow start to the season, Morgan has picked things up as a pass rusher since Week 7. Since then he has had a Pass Rushing Productivity of 14.0. Had he played that well the entire season he would be leading all defensive ends in this category. Aaron Rodgers is already the most sacked quarterback in football, at 45 sacks, and if Barclay doesn’t step up his game, then Morgan will make sure Rodgers holds onto the lead.
Packers Outside Wide Receivers vs. Titans Outside Cornerbacks
Since Greg Jennings returned from an injury, and Jordy Nelson left with a hamstring injury, Jennings and James Jones have both played over 85% of snaps each at the outside receiver spots. Neither player has lived up to their reputation in recent weeks though. Since his return, Jennings has caught just nine of the 17 passes thrown his way, and has yet to get more than 50 yards in a game. While Jones has found the end zone a lot, including three touchdowns last week, he has topped 40 yards only once in the past five games.
The Packers like beating up on the weaker of the outside corners, like Kelvin Hayden (79 yards allowed) last week, A.J. Jefferson (74) two weeks ago, and Corey Webster (109) and Jacob Lacey (82) the week prior. However, this week there is no weak outside corner, as the Titans have Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner. This season Verner has allowed just 10.2 yards per catch, which is among the lowest for cornerbacks who play strictly on the outside. Across from him, McCourty is coming off a two-interception performance, and has allowed less than 20 total yards after the catch in all but two games this year. If these two cornerbacks can take away the threat of these two receivers, everyone else can focus on the interior threats.
Chris Johnson vs. Packers Interior Defense
Chris Johnson has had a very odd season to say the least. Monday night is a good example — he broke a run for 94 yards, but managed only 28 yards in his other 20 runs. Johnson has found no success running to the outside, with just 2.5 yards per carry average when he tries to run outside the tackles. However, when he runs inside the tackles, he has a 6.2 yard rushing average. Even if you take out Johnson’s trio of runs of over 80 yards, he still has a very respectable 4.5 average between the tackles.
The only problem is this week the Titans face a Packers defense that has allowed just 3.8 yards per carry against backs running between the tackles, which is the sixth-best mark in the league. They have played especially well recently, with B.J. Raji having his two best games in run defense these past two weeks — he’s notched a +6.0 run defense rating over that time. Inside linebacker Brad Jones is coming off of an appearance on the PFF Team of the Week. Given the strength of the Packers’ secondary, the run game is the Titans best shot to put up points, but Johnson needs to be on his A-game to get past these rising players.
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