NFL Preview - Tennessee (5-9) at Green Bay (10-4)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Fresh off clinching their second straight NFC North Division title, the Green Bay Packers will continue their pursuit of a first round playoff bye against the Tennessee Titans.
James Jones caught three touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers last Sunday as the Packers wrapped up their division with a 21-13 win over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
Rodgers finished the game 23-for-36 for 291 yards for Green Bay, which has won three straight and eight of its last nine overall.
"It's all about how you're playing in late December and your team's health," said Rodgers on his Twitter account. "We've dealt with a lot of adversity. We want to peak at the right time."
Kicker Mason Crosby continued to struggle for Green Bay, however, missing both of his field goal attempts as he is now just 9-for-18 in his past seven games. Randall Cobb had six catches for 115 yards in the win and is now just 108 receiving yards and 36 kick-return yards from becoming the first player in NFL history with 1,000 in kick both categories.
The Titans, meanwhile, played the role of spoiler this past Monday night against the New York Jets and hope to continue in that guise versus the Pack.
With the Jets' playoff hopes hanging in the balance, Chris Johnson rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries and the Titans intercepted New York quarterback Mark Sanchez four times in a 14-10 victory at LP Field.
Jake Locker finished 13-of-22 passing for 149 yards to go with 43 rushing yards and a touchdown on seven carries for the Titans, who snapped a three- game skid.
"The bottom line is we hung in there," Titans coach Mike Munchak remarked. "It's something we haven't been able to do the last two, three weeks is hold on to a lead or find a way to win in the fourth quarter and this time we did. It's just good to win again. It's been a while."
About the only negative was Tennessee's 14 penalties, its most since being caught 18 times back on Jan. 1, 2006.
"We won is all that matters right now," Munchak said
The Titans are 6-4 all-time versus Green Bay and have won three straight in the series, including a 19-16 overtime win the last time the two teams met on Nov. 2, 2008.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Packers think they have learned a lot about finishing after last season's playoff debacle against the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
Green Bay, which entered the 2011 postseason with an NFL-best 15-1 record, rested a number of key starters in Week 17 before being upset by the wild card Giants.
This time around there is no debate about resting players with a first round bye again plausible. The Packers need to win their final two games -- against the Titans at Minnesota on Dec. 30 -- and hope San Francisco loses to either Seattle or Arizona over the final two weeks.
"We want the bye week, make no bones about it," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's important to have a healthy football team, and if you have an opportunity to achieve the bye week, that's what we're working for. I'm making it clear right now. We're going to play all the way through."
Rodgers feels he sat too much at the end of last season and understands the decision.
"There's a lot to play for," the All-Pro said. "We learned last year you have to be playing the right way at the end of the season. It would be nice to get that (No. 2) seed."
The Titans will miss out on the playoffs for a fourth straight season and Munchak has already been put on notice, meaning Tennessee won't exactly be calling it quits either.
That has shown up on a defense which ranks a pedestrian 23rd in the NFL, allowing 368.9 yards per game but has been much better recently.
Since being embarrassed at home, 51-20, by Chicago on Nov. 4, the Titans are third in total defense (285.8 yards per game), fourth in points allowed (17.6), first in sacks (3.4 per game) and second in opponent passer rating (60.7).
"I like to judge a team by kind of how they're playing lately, and I think they're playing really well," Rodgers said. "They're an opportunistic defense. They have some guys with some ball skills in the secondary, they've got some athletic players."
Rodgers ranks first in the NFL with a 104.7 passer rating and has tossed 32 touchdowns but Green Bay hasn't been quite as explosive this season, averaging 349.0 yards per game, just 20 more than the Titans.
With top receiver Greg Jennings finally rounding into form and No. 2 Jordy nelson getting closer to a return from a hamstring issue, that could change quickly and this looks like a tough test for Tennessee's improving defensive unit.
"We knew it wasn't all the defense," Munchak said about the team's problems earlier in the season. "It was turnovers, it was the offense. It was a lot of things that were leading to statistically things looking worse than they were."
Rodgers has won 24 of his last 26 starts at Lambeau Field and has 64 TDs versus just 17 interceptions with a 110.0 passer rating in those games. It's unlikely the Titans have enough weapons to keep up with A-Rod in this one.
"We need to figure out for the next game how to score more points and build off of that." said Munchak.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Packers 30, Titans 10
12/20 12:30:38 ET