The expected shootout of the week will take place in Green Bay on Sunday night when the top-seeded Packers (11-3) host the Titans (10-4). Tennessee leads the NFL with 436 points scored while the Packers are two points behind with the Chiefs sneaking in between the two with 435 points. No wonder Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Derrick Henry are the three names brought up for MVP right now.
Tennessee Titans vs. Green Bay Packers
Sunday, December 27, 2020 – 08:20 PM EST at Lambeau Field
Both teams came up a game short of reaching the Super Bowl last year. The Titans have been more battled tested this year, posting a 3-3 record in games against teams who currently have a winning record. But this would be arguably the team’s best win yet. Meanwhile, the Packers have played a league-low three games against winning teams, only beating the Saints in Week 3. This is their last chance before the playoffs to notch a big win in front of a national audience.
The Packers are a 3-point favorite at most betting sites, but does home-field advantage really matter in a pandemic season? The Titans have already won road games in Indianapolis and Baltimore while losing at home to the Steelers, Colts, and Browns. The total is 56 points, making it the highest game of Week 16. Can it deliver on the points?
When the Titans Have the Ball
The Titans have proven their 2019 run was not a fluke. Ryan Tannehill in particular has continued his stellar play after having that late-bloomer year to lead the Titans to the AFC Championship Game. In 24 regular season starts with the Titans, Tannehill has completed 68.0% of his passes at 8.7 yards per attempt with 53 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a 113.3 passer rating. He has also cut his sack rate by more than half from last season when it was alarmingly high.
Those are MVP-caliber numbers, but Derrick Henry continues to dominate the conversations about this offense as he works on back-to-back rushing titles. Henry is only 321 yards away from a 2,000-yard rushing season. After rushing for 362 yards in his last two games, this is not out of reach for him.
The Titans will also need a big game from Henry this week to keep the offense on track and to keep Aaron Rodgers on the bench. In Green Bay’s only home loss of the season, it was Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook dominating the defense with 226 yards from scrimmage (163 yards rushing) and four touchdowns. The Packers are 0-3 when allowing 140 rushing yards and are below average against the run, ranked 21st in yards per carry and DVOA.
Tennessee is great at play-action passing, leading the league with 1,481 yards on play-action plays. We know wide receiver A.J. Brown was great as a rookie, but Corey Davis is quietly leading the team in receptions (60) and yards (945) in his fourth season. Throw in an athletic tight end (Jonnu Smith) with seven touchdown catches to go with the wideouts and Henry, and this offense is getting the results it should be getting.
After that ugly 34-17 loss to the Colts, the Titans have gone 4-1 and scored at least 30 points in all five games. They will have to be eyeing at least 30 points again in this one to outscore the Packers.
Both offenses lead the league with the fewest giveaways (nine) this season, so they protect the ball better than anyone. However, the Titans have been better at taking the ball away on defense with 21 turnovers compared to 14 for the Packers. Only three defenses have fewer takeaways than the Packers, so this game could come down to which offense turns it over the most or even just first.
When the Packers Have the Ball
Green Bay’s offense has mostly been on fire this season outside of a 38-10 implosion in Tampa Bay and a sloppy, four-turnover day in Indianapolis. But those were defenses that are strong up front and typically give Rodgers and the Packers problems. Tennessee is not built that way. The Jadeveon Clowney signing did not pan out as he finished the season injured with zero sacks in eight games. Harold Landry is the team’s best pass rusher and he only has 4.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hits.
In fact, the Tennessee ranks dead last with 14 sacks this season. The Titans pressure the quarterback at the lowest rate (16.8%) in the league according to Pro Football Reference. The Titans also allow the third-highest touchdown rate (70.9%) in the red zone where the Packers have been dominant. Oh yeah, the Titans also allow 52.6% of third downs to be converted, which would be the worst rate for a defense since tracking for this stat began in 1991.
When your defense cannot pressure the quarterback, cannot get off the field on third down, and cannot keep teams out of the end zone, then you have some serious problems and it is showing on the NFL odds.
So how does Tennessee slow down Rodgers during one of his best seasons? Well, there is some hope after the weird Carolina game last Saturday night. Despite Green Bay’s 24-16 win, the offense fell apart after taking a quick 21-3 lead. The Packers punted on six of their final seven drives, and Rodgers took five sacks against non-blitzes.
It was a peculiar game with Rodgers throwing his quickest and shortest passes in a game since 2016 according to Next Gen Stats. His average completion traveled just 1.9 yards past the line of scrimmage. This would not be a good way to attack the Titans, or really to attack any defense in the NFL. The Packers were clearly disappointed with this performance despite the win.
Green Bay has the weapons to score in bunches on the Titans. Davante Adams is having an incredible season, but the rest of Green Bay’s receiving corps can be feast or famine. On the one hand, Rodgers’ receivers have helped him reach a league-high 6.1 YAC/completion, but he also has a league-high 6.9% of his passes dropped this year according to Pro Football Reference. One player you cannot pin that on is Robert Tonyan, who has caught 49-of-55 targets (89.1%) for 551 yards and 10 touchdowns. His breakout year deserved Pro Bowl recognition. He will have a chip on his shoulder after not getting that from voters this week.
Rodgers has had the best pass protection and lowest pressure rate of any quarterback this season. The Packers will have to prove the Carolina game was simply another anomaly and that protection will not suddenly become an issue as we get so close to the playoffs.
Since 2016, the home team in games with a total of at least 56 points is 18-4 SU, 15-6-1 ATS, and the over is 12-10. That is a very impressive spread record that has me feeling confident in my NFL picks that the Packers can put last week’s ugly win behind them and come out of this one with a great performance.
As for the total, we are dealing with two great offenses and two shaky defenses in what has been the highest-scoring season in NFL history. These offenses turn the ball over less frequently than anyone. These offenses rank first and second in scoring touchdowns in the red zone, so this is not a game for field goals.
As scary as Tennessee’s offense can be, I like Rodgers against a defense that has been too soft this season. I will take the Packers and the over in a 34-28 type of game that hopefully lives up to expectations.