This Sunday the Tennessee Titans (4-5) host the Green Bay Packers (4-4) for a Week 10 NFL matchup at Nissan Stadium. Kickoff happens at 12:00 PM CST.
Both teams are coming off Week 9 losses.
While the Packers lost 26-31 in a back-and-forth game to the Indianapolis Colts, the Titans committed three turnovers in their 35-43 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Two of the turnovers were returned for a touchdown.
Thus as Tennessee and Green Bay seek redemption, let’s consider four pivotal matchups in the game.
Titans’ rush offense vs. Packers’ run defense
This is a battle of top units.
Although the Titans mustered just 80 yards on 19 carries last week, they still have the third overall rush offense in the league, averaging 144.2 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry.
The Packers, however, have the top ranked rush defense. Led by tackle Mike Daniels, the team’s defensive front limits opponents to 75.8 rush yards per game and a measly 3.3 yards per carry.
While the Titans will have star running back DeMarco Murray in the lineup despite small concerns about his foot, rookie running back Derrick Henry is not expected to play because of a calf strain. Instead Antonio Andrews will come off the bench in Henry’s place.
Marcus Mariota vs. turnovers
Last week quarterback Marcus Mariota played equally up and down.
While he completed 27-of-43 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns, he also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.
Turnovers have been an issue for the young quarterback in 2016. Through nine weeks he has thrown eight interceptions and accounted for seven fumbles, four of which were lost.
This stat-line is significant because whether Mariota does or does not commit a turnover seems to dictate the outcome of games for Tennessee.
The Titans are undefeated (2-0) when Mariota commits no turnover. They are winless (0-3) when Mariota commits a turnover that is returned for a touchdown. And they are 2-3 when Mariota commits one or more turnovers but none is returned for a touchdown.
Ball security is therefore a high priority for the second-year quarterback as he heads into Sunday’s matchup with the Packers, who have seven interceptions and three fumble recoveries in their eight games.
Titans’ defense vs. Aaron Rodgers
Through the first five weeks of 2016, the Titans’ defensive successfully contained the opponent’s best offensive player.
In Week 1 Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 31 yards on 19 carries. In Week 2 Lions’ receiver Golden Tate made two receptions for 13 yards. In Week 3 Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr completed 60 percent of his passes for a single touchdown and interception. In Week 4 Texans’ receiver DeAndre Hopkins made one reception for four years. And in Week 5 Dolphins’ receiver Jarvis Landry made three receptions for 28 yards.
Thereafter the Titans have struggled.
In Week 6 Browns’ receiver Terrelle Pryor made nine receptions for 75 yards and two touchdowns. In Week 7 Colts’ receiver T.Y. Hilton made seven receptions for 133 yards and touchdown. In Week 8 Jaguars’ quarterback Blake Bortles completed 61 percent of his passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns (albeit, many of Bortles’ completions came in garbage time). And in Week 9 Chargers’ running back Melvin Gordon had 36 carries for 196 yards and a touchdown.
The next challenge for the Titans’ defense is quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who despite having a ‘down season’ by Rodger’s standards, still averages 2.5 passing touchdowns per game which ranks third highest in the league. The only quarterbacks with higher averages are Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.
Titans’ offensive line vs. Packers’ front seven
Perhaps one of the more surprising stories of 2016: The Titans offensive line continues to rank among the best in the league.
According to the Pro Football Focus, tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin are top four at their respective positions, and interior lineman Brian Schwenke, Ben Jones, and Josh Kline are all above average.
If this unit can excel versus the Green Bay — open running lanes for DeMarco Murray, protect Mariota, and control the game clock — the Titans have an opportunity to win the game from the trenches outward.