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Friday, October 08, 2004
Game Preview: Titans @ Packers
by Thomas Pyc
There is definitely one thing that both Packer fans and Titan fans have in common the season, it’s the feeling of disappointment. This week marked the first time the Packers have been solely in last place over the last sixteen years. But this game really is not all that bad; one team has a very good chance of leaving the field with a one game win streak to build off.
Last week the Packers saw the repercussions of playing without Brett Favre at that the helm. Titans’ fans experienced a similar shock watching their team fall to the San Diego Chargers by three touchdowns. Both teams are being affected by the injury bug but neither team wants to admit it.
Most of the pre-game discussion for the match-up will surround the toughness of the teams’ quarterbacks. Both Favre and Steve McNair are constantly labeled as tough and most recently finished first (59% of the vote) and second (17%), respectively, in a foxsports.com poll regarding their toughness. But even the commissioner was interested in Brett’s latest visit to the infirmary for a concussion; he placed a call to the Packer organization Sunday expressing his concern.
Titans’ Offense vs. The Packers’ Defense
The Titans offense is currently 23rd in yards and 24th in points which does not make them flashy but they do know how to hold onto the ball (seventh in fewest turnovers), sustaining drives is another story. Lead by Steve McNair, this unit has moved from a three wide receiver focus to a two back and two wideouts (or tightends) set of formations. McNair has not played much like himself so far this season but the with the Packers’ secondary woes that could all change very quickly.
Packers’ cornerback Michael Hawthorne has looked vulnerable to offensive coordinators in the past few weeks and this week should be no different. Fortunately, Hawthorne (6-3) matches up well against the taller Titans’ receivers Drew Bennett (6-5) and Tyrone Calico (6-4). Calico, as of Friday, was still listed as out on the injury report. Derek Mason (5-10) is the Titans’ best receiver and is extremely quick. Al Harris will need to get solid bumps on him within the first five yards to minimize Mason’s affect on the outcome.
But for the Packers that’s not the worst of it. Second year running back out of Colorado, Kris Brown, is running great this season and could see some more success against a Packers’ run defense that yielded 248 yards last week to the Giants. This unit dearly needs Grady Jackson back on the field but as of Wednesday that was still three weeks away.
The Packers’ Offense vs. The Titans’ Defense
Brett Favre appeared disgusted with the fact he had to sit on the sideline and not be included in the outcome of the last Packers’ game. It’s possible that experience could propel Favre into a very good performance in the upcoming week. Packer fans know how well Brett performs after an injury but, on the other had, this is the first time it has been a concussion. Nobody wants to see Brett’s career end by the escalation of such an injury.
The Titans’ defense is not the same beast that teams have faced in the past due to free agency and the injury bug (6 defensive members on the injury report). The Titans’ strength is their ability to cover receivers with their quick cornerbacks, Samari Rolle and Andre Dyson, allowing a lot of upfront blitzing. The Packers’ wideouts will need to separation and make catches in order for the Packers to open up the running game and find some offensive balance.
The Titans’ front seven have a decent amount of talent at five of the positions but two of their linebacker slots are injury depleted and inadequately filled. The battle in the trenches could easily become a draw due to the presence of Albert Haynesworth (6-5.5, 320lbs.) and for the Pack to see success they will either need to wear him down or create some room through the passing game.
The Three Keys
1. Favre’s health vs. the Titans’ defense – Expect the Titans to try and get to Favre and knock him around. The Packers second string quarterback, Doug Pederson, has been put on I.R. for the year and that move Craig Nall, who has never thrown a regular season NFL pass, into the number two spot.
2. The Titans’ secondary vs. the Packers’ receivers – This could very easily determine the outcome of the game. Whoever gets the better of the individual matchups should have a drastic effect on the outcome.
3. Kris Brown vs. Nick Barnett – Both second year players have impressed their respective teams. Barnett leads his team in tackles (36) but needs to start making more tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
The Bottom Line
Both of these teams are extremely familiar with strong finishes. Since Sherman took over as coach in 2000 there are only two teams with better records over the last twelve games of those four seasons (48 games). Green Bay has a 33-15 (.688) record which is tied with New England, Tennessee is 35-13 over that same span and Philadelphia tops the column with a .37-11 mark (.771). Packer and Titan fans alike, are hoping a Monday night victory will trigger the play their team has exhibited in recent history.