The teams: The Green Bay Packers (10-4) vs. the Tennessee Titans (5-9).
The time: Noon CST Sunday.
The place: Lambeau Field, Green Bay.
The TV coverage: CBS – WDJT (Ch. 58 in Milwaukee), WISC (Ch. 3 in Madison) and WFRV (Ch. 5 in Green Bay).
The announcers: Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf in the booth.
The coaches: Green Bay's Mike McCarthy is 79-40 (including 5-3 in the postseason) in his seventh season as the Packers' coach and as an NFL head coach. The Titans’ Mike Munchak is 14-16 in his second year as the Titans’ coach and as an NFL head coach.
The series: The Titans lead the all-time regular-season series, 6-4, and are also 4-1 in Green Bay. Tennessee has won each of the last three meetings between the teams, most recently a 19-16 overtime victory in Nashville on Nov. 2, 2008.
The rankings: The Packers’ 17th-ranked offense is No. 20 in rushing and No. 13 in passing. Their defense is tied for No. 14 in the NFL and is No. 14 against the run and No. 16 against the pass. The Titans’ 23rd-ranked offense is No. 19 in rushing and No. 21 in passing. Their 23rd-ranked defense is No. 25 against the run and No. 19 against the pass.
The line: The Packers are favored by 12.5 points.
The injury report:
Out – TE Tom Crabtree (illness, hamstring), WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring), RB James Starks (knee), S Charles Woodson (collarbone), DE C.J. Wilson (knee).
Questionable – RB Alex Green (concussion), DE Jerel Worthy (hamstring), G Greg Van Roten (back), RT Don Barclay (illness).
Probable – QB Aaron Rodgers (ankle), LG T.J. Lang (concussion/flu), C Jeff Saturday (neck, shoulder), LB Erik Walden (ankle), WR Randall Cobb (shoulder).
Out – C Kevin Matthews (ankle).
Questionable – LB Colin McCarthy (concussion), DE Scott Solomon (knee), WR Damian Williams (hamstring), CB Ryan Mouton (hamstring), WR Kendall Wright (rib).
Probable – QB Jake Locker (left shoulder), LB Will Witherspoon (hamstring), WR Kenny Britt (knee).
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
Quorum call: Truth be told, McCarthy would rather have one running back who plays full-time rather than taking the running back-by-committee approach. That’s what he thought he had with Cedric Benson before what turned out to be a season-ending foot injury on Oct. 7 in Indianapolis. But with Benson’s injury, Green’s sharp decreases in production when carrying 20 times in a game and James Starks’ inability to stay healthy, that’s just not happening for the Packers this year.
“Running back by committee is the way you go,” McCarthy said during the week. “The preference would be to play one guy, I think any play caller, anybody that would give you an honest answer that calls plays, would prefer one back. You just keep playing and adjust. The continuity with the line, we just keep working through it. I like the progress we’ve made. I’ve been happy with the way we’ve run the ball the past month and we’ll continue to work at it.”
Complicating matters for the Packers, though, is that Green hadn’t passed his final concussion test as of Friday afternoon. Even if he does play, he won’t have practiced all week – and as a second-year player whose rookie season ended early because of a knee injury – that’s not ideal. If he can’t go, the Packers’ two running backs will be veteran Ryan Grant, who was on the street earlier this month, and DuJuan Harris, who’s flashed his talent but is still a guy who’s a month or so removed from being on the practice squad.
“It’s a challenge any time you have a player that has a responsibility to make decisions and has the ball in his hands. Like anything, I know from our offensive approach, the closer you are to the football, the more times you touch the football, the more responsibilities you have for the offense. That in itself talks about their level of responsibility (for the running backs),” McCarthy said. “You need the reps. Training camp obviously helps. It’s been helpful that Ryan Grant has been here in the past, it’s been seamless. But when you have a young player like DuJuan, you have some growing pains. But they have opportunities. Hopefully Alex Green can be back this weekend.”
Line shuffle: Two games away from postseason play, the Packers rejiggered their offensive line this week, benching Saturday in favor of Evan Dietrich-Smith at center in a move that was made evident on Friday. With Bryan Bulaga on season-ending injured reserve, the Packers’ preferred starters are, from left to right, Marshall Newhouse, Lang, Dietrich-Smith, Josh Sitton and Barclay.
“I’d be lying if I told you it’s not disappointing and tough. I’m here to play football. I told Coach, I came here to help win a Super Bowl. Winning the NFC North is great, but that wasn’t why I was here. I looked for more of the postseason. It’s disappointing from that side,” Saturday said. “You can’t be affected by your circumstances. I’m a member of the Packers. It’s not just me. If Coach McCarthy thinks that gives us the best chance to win and go on and do things in the postseason, then that’s what it is. As a player, it’s always disappointing whenever someone else goes in front of you. It’s a tough thing to deal with, but I’m going to deal with it.”