Packers-Titans keys to the game

The starters won't play much in today's preseason finale at Lambeau Field, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to accomplish.

The Packers haven't had much time to bounce back from Monday's debacle at Cincinnati. Perhaps that's a good thing. Green Bay returns to action this afternoon against the Tennessee Titans, and while the starters won't play for much more than a series or two, it will be an opportunity to get rid of that bitter taste before the games really matter. In fact, that is the first of this week's five keys to the game.

1. Start fast on offense ...

Just because Brett Favre and Co. likely will play only a handful of plays, today's game isn't just something to get out of the way. Favre turned it over twice against the Bengals, and the running game got little accomplished against Cincinnati's starting defense. A couple more false starts by sputtering left tackle Chad Clifton didn't help, either. The Packers' No. 1 offense must take advantage of its limited chances today to build some confidence and momentum. An eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive would be ideal, but some positive rushing plays, a few first downs and a field goal would be something to build on.

2. ... and defense ...

The Packers' No. 1 defense gave up first-drive touchdowns against San Diego and Atlanta, and yielded points on all five first-half possessions against Cincinnati. This unit was supposed to be the strength of the team, but putting the team in an early hole will be a bring problem if it persists into the regular season. Other than Al Harris continuing to eliminate whatever receiver lines up across from him, the starters have had a poor preseason. The Packers' big-money additions — rookie A.J. Hawk, cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett — have been invisible. Another newcomer, safety Marquand Manuel, missed much of training camp and needs to get on track. The pass rush has been nonexistent. Maybe they're just playing vanilla and will turn it up against the Bears, but it would be nice to see something out of the starters other than tackles being made eight yards downfield.

3. ... then get out of there

Of course, the only thing worse than a couple three-and-out punts or yielding a first-drive touchdown is to have a key starter get injured. Injuries have been commonplace around the league this summer, but the Packers, other than fullback William Henderson's knee surgery, have been lucky. Other than the defensive line, the Packers have practically no depth, so injuries would be especially devastating.

4. Just for kicks

Dave Rayner has been flying solo for more than a week, and while he hasn't inspired any awe at games and practices, he hasn't been a total disaster, either. How will he respond to a last-minute challenger? E.J. Cochrane was signed the other day, and Nick Novak, a veteran who has kicked for Arizona and Washington, was in for a tryout. Kicking is one half talent and one half handling pressure. The Packers know Rayner has the leg. No doubt, general manager Ted Thompson made this move at this time just to find out how Rayner will handle this latest bit of pressure?

5. Last chance

Astute Packers fans couldn't care less if the starters will play only a few plays this afternoon. Smart fans will be intrigued by the other 50-plus minutes, as players battle for coveted roster spots.

Among them: safety Tra Boger, whose whiff on a tackle attempt gave the Bengals a second-half touchdown; defensive tackle Kenderick Allen; defensive end Jason Hunter; running backs Arliss Beach, Najeh Davenport, Noah Herron and Samkon Gado (they'll keep two or three) and wide receivers Ruvell Martin and Rod Gardner (they'll keep one).

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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