Taking on the Titans

On paper, today's matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Tennessee Titans pales in comparison to last week's emotion-packed battle for first place with the arch-rival Bears. Read between the lines, and fans will find that even though this game is at an AFC venue against a disappointing team playing for next year, there is just as much on the line.<P>

"If we go out next week and lose at Tennessee and the Bears beat Tampa Bay, then we're right back where we started,"cautioned veteran linebacker Bernardo Harris.

On the other hand, if the Packers keep their December hot-streak going, they'll maintain first place and at least the No. 2 spot in the NFC as the season dwindles down to 3 games to go.

The 9-3 Packers are heavily favored over the 5-7 Titans, who haven't climbed out of a hole they dug with an 0-3 start. Last week they were pummelled by the erratic Vikings with an extremely green QB Todd Bouman at the Minnesota helm.

It's enticing to think about what Brett Favre could do against the league's 28th-best pass defense when the Packers debut at Adelphia Coliseum today. But there are some other matchups that aren't so attractive for the Pack. Left tackle Chad Clifton has been bravely playing through injury, but it's going to take more than guts to get the best of superstar pass rusher Jevon Kearse. Known for his quickness, Kearse has nine sacks and knows he must stop Favre if the Titans are to have a chance today.

The Titans will try to counter the Packers' dynamic duo of Favre and running back Ahman Green with their own powerful pair- Steve McNair and Eddie George. Once one of the most feared backs in the league, and also one of the reasons some pundits picked the Titans to return to the Super Bowl, George has yet to find his stride in 2001. The Packers' rushing defense, ranked No. 8 in the league, should be able to keep him off track. McNair can be a scary character. He is always a threat to "air it out," but does have 10 interceptions and not much help from a weak receiving corps.

That brings us to the Green Bay secondary, which would enjoy a banner day today. Mike McKenzie has earned a great reputation. That leaves teams with nowhere to turn but to go at Tyrone Williams, which is no treat for opposing passing attacks either. Tennessee has not proven that their receivers can overcome a strong secondary. Kevin Dyson and Derrick Mason can be dangerous, but the Packers have faced much stronger competition at WR this season and come away winners.

Green has been the big story for the Pack this year. Don't be surprised if the Titans have a little more success here than the Bears did last week, as they bring the league's No.5 defense vs. the run into today's contest. The silver lining here is that the Titans can only spread themselves so thin. They have fattened their rush defense against AFC Central teams that don't have a QB like Favre to worry about.

On special teams, the Packers have to hope that Josh Bidwell comes up with a consistently strong game. That's because when they look across the field, they'll see former Packer Craig Hentrich, one of the league's top punters. The coverage team has to step it up as well, because the Titans feature returnman Derrick Mason who has a touchdown to his credit this season.

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