You’d like to think that a team of professional athletes could figure out a way to be dialed in for every single game, but from time to time, a game comes along that just doesn’t incite the kind of excitement it should. Sometimes it’s because a game falls during a lull in the schedule and other times it’s because the opposing team just isn’t very good. Those games are commonly called trap games.
This is a trap game.
It bears all the standard marks of a game the Packers might be able to lose, if only because their playoff position may be as good as it’s going to get. They’ve locked up the NFC North and the first round home game that comes with it. San Francisco beat New England last week, meaning that an ascension to the number two seed in the NFC is suddenly a lot less likely. And to top it all off, Tennessee just isn’t very good.
Or are they? Sure, their season hasn’t gone how they’ve hoped. Jake Locker has been injured. Their defense has been underwhelming (despite what Pro Football Talk might tell you). Chris Johnson has been wildly inconsistent. But despite all that, Tennessee is still a talented football team, and should they get hot, they may be able to make things difficult for the Packers on Sunday. It may not be likely, but it’s definitely not impossible.
5 – Rushing touchdowns by Titans’ running back Chris Johnson. After a 2000 yard season in 2009, Johnson hasn’t been able to produce anything remotely close to that success, although his yards per carry average this season is the highest it’s been since that monster year. Part of the problem is a lack of complementary talent on offense, but that’s not a great excuse. Adrian Peterson might break the all-time rushing record this season, and nobody would say he’s on an all-star team.
4 – Games this season in which Johnson has rushed for less than 40 yards. The most frustrating thing about Johnson is his inconsistency. Some games he’s an unstoppable machine, like Week 7 against Buffalo (18 carries, 195 yards, 2 TD). Other times, he plays like he doesn’t want to be there, like Week 5 against Minnesota (15 carries, 24 yards, 0 TD). It’s hard to know which Chris Johnson will show up.
3 – Titan players with four receiving touchdowns. Tennessee may not have a lot of great players, but they certainly have a few good ones. Kendall Wright, Jared Cook, and Nate Washington have all caught at least 43 passes and four touchdowns this year, and Kenny Britt (perhaps the best of the bunch) is right there too, with 41 catches and three touchdowns. The Packer defense definitely should not underestimate Tennessee’s talent on offense.
2 – Tennessee players with at least 30 rushing attempts. As inconsistent as Chris Johnson can be, at least he’s undeniably the Titans’ best running option and they can structure their offense accordingly. For comparison, the Packers have four players with at least 30 rushing attempts, led by Alex Green with 135. While the Packers may not have the best running back corps, it’s possible that at least part of their struggle this year has to do with their inability to find a clear leader at the position.
1 – Games, out of their last five contests, in which Aaron Rodgers has been sacked less than three times (Week 13 vs. Minnesota). Rodgers has had to run for his life behind this offensive line at times this year, and due to injury, the group hasn’t been able to improve as the season has gone on.
Last Time – Titans: 17 Packers: 14 – November 2, 2008
The Packers traveled to Tennessee and left with a bitter overtime defeat. Aaron Rodgers was an uninspiring 22 of 41 for 314 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, Ryan Grant led the Packers in rushing with 86 yards on 20 carries, and Donald Driver may have had the best performance of the day, catching seven passes for 136 yards and a score.
Tennessee, meanwhile, got a solid all-around game from Chris Johnson, who provided 89 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, in addition to six receptions for 72 yards.
Meet a Titan – Chris Johnson – 5’11”, 191 lbs. – RB – 5th NFL season
We’ve devoted more time to Chris Johnson than anyone else in this preview, but more than anyone on Tennessee’s roster, he deserves it. Frustrating as he can be for Titan fans, he’s no doubt their best player. Johnson can change the complexion of a game in a heartbeat due to his incredible breakaway speed, but he hasn’t always been able to show what he can do consistently.
This video perfectly encapsulates the Chris Johnson Conundrum, touching on both his talent and his propensity to disappear.
The Titans will win if…
…good Chris Johnson shows up and can take pressure of the talented but (thus far) underwhelming Jake Locker. If a good performance by Johnson eliminates the need for Locker to win the game on his own, the Titans may be able to run enough clock to stay in this one.
The Packers will win if…
…they can force Jake Locker to try to win the game on his own. Locker, a former first round pick, is a very good athlete, but hasn’t consistently shown he can complete passes at an NFL level. In some respects, he’s like a more athletic (although less polished) Christian Ponder: more of a game manager than a game winner at this point. If the Packers force him to carry the team, there’s a good chance he won’t be up to the task.
The Pick – Packers: 30 Titans: 10
Trap game or not, this game should demonstrate that the Packers are simply a better team. An opportunistic defense should force Jake Locker into a couple turnovers, and Aaron Rodgers will likely be able to make enough hay against the Titan defense that the Packers can secure their eleventh win of the year.
The Rest (home team in ALL CAPS)
Falcons over LIONS
PANTHERS over Raiders
DOLPHINS over Bills
STEELERS over Bengals
Patriots over JAGUARS
Colts over CHIEFS
COWBOYS over Saints
Redskins over EAGLES
BUCCANEERS over Rams
Chargers over JETS
TEXANS over Vikings
BRONCOS over Browns
Bears over CARDINALS
Giants over RAVENS
49ers over SEAHAWKS
Last week: 11-5
Season total: 152-70-1 (.682)
Tweet of the Week
Tom Crabtree documents his struggles with the flu. Also…meat?
BONUS: The SuperMegaUltra Kicker
I don’t know who the Packers should turn to for help at kicker, but maybe it should be this guy.