While the most anticipated game of Sunday night’s clash between the Green Bay Packers and the Tennessee Titans could focus around Mike Pettine’s defense against Derrick Henry, who runs All-Pro, another pivotal chess match appears in the shadows and is one in which the Packers should enjoy a huge advantage.
Two important situations in which the Packers are on offense could play as important a role in choosing the winner on Sunday night as Henry against the Green Bay defense.
The importance of the match is discordant because of the Packers’ potential for supremacy.
The crime of the Titans was great both in third place down and in the red zone, ranking in the top 10 in each category, but it is a very different story for the defense of Mike Vrabel. In fact, there may not be a worse situational defense in football this season.
Titans’ defense ranks last in the third down conversion percentage (52.6) and 30th in the red zone hit percentage (70.9), a potentially disastrous combination of situational incompetence when faced with Aaron Rodgers and Packers.
Matt LaFleur’s team could have the best situational crime in football. The Packers rank third in the NFL in the third down (49.1) and first in the red zone (78.4).
Despite some fights that ended the game last Saturday against the Carolina Panthers, the Packers were dominant and consistent in third place.
Rodgers leads the NFL in passing yards on third down, and he is second in touchdowns and yards on try and third in passing rating. The receiver Davante Adams is the first to receive the yards and the second in the first descents on the third down. Receivers Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and tight-lipped Robert Tonyan turned 31 catches into third place in the first 29 descents. Rodgers even fought for the first eight descents on the third descent.
The Titans allowed three times more touchdown passes on the third down (nine) than they had sacks on the third down (three). Five different defenders recorded a pass rating of 100.0 on the third down against the Titans and were terrible when they defended the third and shortest. Of the 92 finishes against the Titans in the third drop, 74 got the first drops. And running the ball down the third turned 28 times with 42 attempts.
The red zone – or the golden zone, as the Packers call it – was a magical place for green and gold. Packers are approaching an 80% touchdown rate when they enter the 20-yard line, largely thanks to Rodgers. He led the NFL with 29 touchdown passes in the red zone and mixed in three more scores. Overall, the MVP twice accounted for 32 of the Packers’ 40 red zone touchdowns.
The Titans allowed 39 touches in the red zone in defense, highlighting the bending of the group, but also the style of the break.
Probably not a stretch to say the third down and the red zone will decide the match on Sunday night. Or at least go a long way in determining a winner. Both offenses are dominant in situational football, but one defense is in the race for the worst in the NFL, in third place down and in the red zone.
Henry could be productive for the Titans, but the Packers can do much more damage if Rodgers and offense take advantage of the show’s biggest mismatch.