Green Bay Packers

Can The Packers Deliver An Encore?

Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Question of the day: Can the Pack deliver an encore performance and stack a couple of wins together against quality opponents?

Their 4-6 record has left them basically zero margin for error if they want to claw their way back into playoff contention; last week’s stirring OT win over the Dallas Cowboys will mean nothing if they can’t follow it up with a win against the Tennessee Titans tonight at Lambeau.

Unfortunately, this is precisely the kind of team that can give the Packers nightmares from a matchup standpoint. Gone is the compliant rushing defense Green Bay saw last week. Tennessee is the No. 2 defense against the run — it’s hard to envision the Pack approaching anything close to the 200 yards on the ground they amassed last week.

The Titans can get after the quarterback, too, with 53 pressures the last two weeks, despite missing four starters on the defense. A fifth, and maybe their best, defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, is questionable with an ankle injury that caused him to miss last week’s game. If they hold him out for another week, things get immensely easier for the Pack’s offense.

This is a typical Mike Vrabel team: They’re tough, physical, and look to control things up front on both sides of the ball. They have a hard time scoring points, but they haven’t given up more than 17 points in regulation since Week 3. The last time we saw them, they took Patrick Mahomes to overtime at Arrowhead, with rookie Malik Willis under center.

Ryan Tannehill returned to run the show last week, and they threw a lot more than they’d like because the Denver Broncos’ run D is so good — Denver held Derrick Henry to just 53 yards on 19 carries. Tannehill was forced to pass 36 times and completed about half of them. Look for them to flip the script this week and see how much damage Henry can do against the Pack’s run defense. The last time these teams met, on a late season Sunday night two years ago, the Pack clobbered the Titans and kept Henry in check for the most part.

With De’Vondre Campbell set to miss another game, the Pack will need his replacements to step up. Krys Barnes has cleared concussion protocol, so he should get the start next to Quay Walker, with Isaiah McDuffie helping out as well. And we’ll get another look at the reconfigured secondary, with Rudy Ford back in the lineup at free safety after his huge two-interception performance last week. His physical play is exactly what this defense will need if they are to contain Henry and force Tannehill to throw.

We’ll all watch how Christian Watson follows up last week’s breakthrough performance. His confidence has to be soaring, and if you’re going to move the ball on Tennessee, it’s through the air, where they rank 31st, giving up 270 yards per game. It would be great to get Randall Cobb back, but I’m not so sure it will happen. He came off IR this week, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they give him time to ramp up and make sure he’s right so they have him for next week’s prime-time battle in Philly.

The Pack hasn’t thrown to the backs much this season; this might be a good time to bring that back against an aggressive pass rush and with extra attention being paid to Watson. Against this defense, the Packers will need to stay ahead of the chains, keep the penalties to a minimum, and, obviously, take care of the ball. Scoring opportunities will likely be few and far between.

Green Bay is 3-1 on Thursday nights under Matt LaFleur, and Aaron Rodgers’ prime-time success is well documented — the winning streak snapped in Buffalo a few weeks back. Home teams generally have the edge on these short weeks, so that’s a point in the Pack’s favor, but the Titans will come in and try to punch the Packers in the face, and they better be ready for their brand of nastiness.

I’ll buy that Green Bay rides a wave of momentum from last weekend and does just enough to squeak past the Titans to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive. But it wouldn’t surprise me if they have to battle from behind, and it might come down to the closing seconds once again.

Packers 19

Titans 17

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Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

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