When the 2012 Green Bay Packers‘ schedule came out and I saw at Week 16 had them playing against the Tennessee Titans, the only thing I could think was ‘caaaaaaaaaaaakewalk.’ The Titans are coming into Lambeau Field on a short week with nothing to gain against a confident team fighting for a first-round bye.
The challenge for the Packers this week will be not falling into the same mentality that I and all the fans have regarding the Titans. I’m not really a fan of the term “trap game,” but if there ever was one, this is it.
Tennessee has really struggled this season and enter the game with a 5-9 record. The highest they rank in passing and rushing yards – offensive or defensive – is 19th. The only one of their five wins that is even mildly impressive is a Week 6 26-23 victory over a battered and bruised Pittsburgh Steelers.
As terrible as the Titans are, they have been playing better in recent weeks. Chris Johnson is coming off a 122-yard rushing performance on Monday night and, despite his huge dropoff from two years ago, Johnson is still a solid back. He is seventh in the league in yards at 1,159. Against a highly susceptible Packers run defense (though greatly aided by the return of Clay Matthews), this strikes me as the area of the game that the Titans can make their strongest push in.
The Packers continue to struggle with injuries. Three offensive linemen – T.J. Lang, Jeff Saturday, and backup Greg Van Roten – did not practice Thursday. The team was optimistic that all three would be able to return to practice before Sunday’s game, but that’s something to keep an eye on.
Two of the Packers’ running backs look unlikely to play, as well. Mr. Glass (James Starks) has a knee injury and Alex Green has yet to pass concussion protocol. Green has had his two strongest performances in the last two games and has been getting the majority of the carries. If he is unable to play, both Ryan Grant and rookie Dujuan Harris will have to shoulder a lot more carries than they’ve had thus far in the season.
The only thing that creates any doubt or fear in my mind is the fact that crazy things happen in the NFL every week. I remember yawning at the prospect of the then 13-0 Packers going to the Kansas City Chiefs last season before being rudely shocked by the Chiefs handing Green Bay its first and only loss of the regular season. The game against the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this season was disturbingly difficult for the Packers to put away. Fans have seen the Packers inexplicably go cold on offense at inopportune times over the last couple of seasons and that’s enough to open the door just a tiny crack for the Titans.
Whenever I predict a blowout victory for the Packers, things always seem to go wrong, but I just can’t see the Titans giving the Packers too much trouble. Green Bay just has to keep its focus on Tennessee and not start looking forward to Week 17.