Titans vs. Packers: 10 Keys to the Game for Green Bay

Kris BurkeCorrespondent IDecember 21, 2012

Titans vs. Packers: 10 Keys to the Game for Green Bay

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    As Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after Sunday's division-clinching win over the Chicago Bears, the first step of the Packers' journey to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII is complete.

    The next step would be securing a first round bye.  The Packers need to win out and get some help from the Seattle Seahawks to get the second seed in the NFC, but anything is possible. The Packers first must take care of the 5-9 Tennessee Titans who come to Lambeau Field this Sunday.

    It's not a real high profile national game, but the Packers need to win this one if they even want a shot at having wild card weekend off.  The Titans at this point are playing for pride, but they could be a much tougher opponent for the Packers than many realize.

Stop Chris Johnson

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    Johnson is by far the biggest weapon the Titans have on offense and one week after breaking a 94 yard touchdown run against the Jets, Johnson could give the Packers trouble.

    The Packers have handled Adrian Peterson pretty well, but Johnson is smaller and faster.  It remains to be seen if the Packers' linebackers will be able to keep up with Johnson so it will be up to the defensive line to get penetration in the backfield.

    With a quarterback still learning the ropes, the Titans are sure to lean almost exclusively on Johnson.  If the Packers can shut him down, they should win the game.

Don't Play Down to Your Opponents Level

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    At times this season, when facing a clearly inferior opponent, the Packers have had difficulty putting teams away.

    The Packers struggled at times to win (at home nonetheless) against teams like the Arizona Cardinals and the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are two of the worst teams in the NFL this season.  If the Packers want to truly strike fear into opponents, they need to beat teams that are not on the same level talent-wise as they are.

    McCarthy says he wants his teams playing their best football in December. A blowout win over the Titans would serve notice that the Packers are primed and ready for the postseason.

Protect Aaron Rodgers

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    This has pretty much been a key to every game the Packers have played this year, but it's the truth.  As the most sacked quarterback in the NFL this season, Rodgers has taken a decent amount of abuse by opposing defenses.

    Yes, the Packers have had injury problems along the line, but even before Bryan Bulaga was lost for the season the Packers were having trouble keeping their franchise quarterback upright. The Packers cannot continue to be over reliant on their quarterback's athletic ability. 

    While the Titans' defense is a shell of its former self, they still may have some chances against a shaky offensive line.  Marshall Newhouse continues to be up and down at protecting Rodgers' blind side so he'll be one to watch on Sunday.

Keep Mason Crosby off the Field (Except for Extra Points)

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    For reasons known only to McCarthy, Crosby is still the Packers' kicker.

    To say that Crosby is in a slump is the understatement of the season.  He's converted exactly half of his last 24 attempts and missed two field goals against the Bears last week.  Perhaps more troubling is that on one miss he hooked it left and then missed the other direction on the second miss.

    McCarthy deserves some credit for sticking by his guy. That said, this decision could come back to haunt the Packers if Crosby is called upon to win a playoff game.

Stick to Your Game Plan

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    Whatever was going through either McCarthy or special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum's head last week needs to disappear for good.

    With the Packers up 11, they inexplicably attempted some lateral on a punt return with Randall Cobb throwing the ball across the field to Jeremy Ross. It didn't work, the Bears got the ball back and luckily didn't end up winning the game because of it.

    The Packers had special teams success with trick plays early in the season, but now isn't the time for unneeded trickery.  If the Packers want to beat the Titans, they need to be smart about their play calls.  Being cute does not win a championship

Don't Scoreboard Watch

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    The San Francisco 49ers don't play until Monday night, but the Atlanta Falcons do and the Packers are still in the running for home field advantage in the playoffs.

    The Falcons face a free falling Detroit Lions team, but the Packers need to take of their own business. Don't worry about what Atlanta is doing. Worry about what you're doing.

Play to Win the Game (Don't Rest Starters)

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    The Packers have secured a berth in the playoffs and sometimes that's enough for coaches to automatically begin resting their players.

    McCarthy likely won't do that, but if the Falcons beat the Lions handily and the Packers somehow fall behind, the temptation may present itself to the Packers.

    Putting Graham Harrell in at this point won't accomplish much, if anything. The Packers need to win this game. While the Packers can't clinch anything else this weekend, they could be locked into their three seed by the time Sunday night rolls around.

Get to Jake Locker

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    Locker has played in only nine games this season, but to say his play leaves something to be desired is probably an understatement.

    He has nine touchdowns and nine interceptions on the year and has a completion of 56.4 percent.  He has struggled, but has yet to put a full season under his belt thanks to injury and that has hindered his development.

    The Packers cannot allow Locker to look good like they did with Blaine Gabbert.  They need to send pressure early and often to force him into some bad throws.  It's been awhile since the Packers have made a quarterback not named Jay Cutler look foolish, and this week would be a great time to start.

Bury the Titans

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    Thanks in part to a string of injuries throughout the season, the Packers have not been blowing opponents out like they were a year ago.

    That doesn't mean that they haven't had the chance to.  They've had opponents on the ropes at multiple times this season, but for whatever reason the Packers seem to let off the gas pedal a bit and allow their opponent to get back into the game.

    It hasn't horribly burned them so far, but once the playoffs start it very well could.  The Packers need to keep their foot on the accelerator for a full 60 minutes and a game against the Titans is a golden opportunity.

Start Fast

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    To go along with the theme of burying the opposition, the Packers also need to start games faster.

    They spotted the Bears an early lead last week and were down 14-0 two weeks ago to the Detroit Lions. While the Packers won both of those games, again they won't be playing inferior opponents once the playoffs begin. 

    By the time the Packers' offense gets moving, they could find themselves in an even bigger hole. They need to strike early and often,