GB-TENN Showcases NFL's Best Pass Pickers
Next game: Sunday, November 2nd at Tennessee
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The odds are better than good that Kerry Collins or Aaron Rodgers -- possibly both -- will be intercepted come Sunday.
It's not that the quarterbacks are turnover-prone this season. In fact, just the opposite, with Collins having been intercepted three times in six starts for Tennessee, and only one of Rodgers' four interceptions coming over the past three games for Green Bay.
Unfortunately, these quarterbacks will find themselves on the field Sunday with some of the NFL's best ballhawks. The Packers lead the league with 13 interceptions, trailed by Tennessee's 12, and this game features four of the five defensive backs tied for best in the NFL with four interceptions apiece.
Finnegan picked off four passes over the first three games, one returned 99 yards for a touchdown. Titans safety Michael Griffin joined him by the fifth game, and the Titans lead the NFL in turnover differential, with cornerback Nick Harper having two interceptions. Safety Chris Hope picked off Peyton Manning twice in a 31-21 win over Indianapolis on Monday night.
"We're also trying to catch up," Hope said. "Plays are going to come. We just have so many playmakers sometimes you might go a few games without making a play."
Charles Woodson, despite a broken toe, and safety Nick Collins have taken their picking to a new level for the Packers. Both have two TDs on interception returns, including Collins' 62-yarder on Oct. 19 in a 34-14 win over the Colts. Tramon Williams has three interceptions, and backup safety Aaron Rouse had a TD off an interception against Indianapolis as well.
The Packers also may have safety Atari Bigby back from a hamstring injury after missing five games. Cornerback Al Harris is being checked by doctors Friday for a likely return from a spleen injury that threatened to end his season. Harris has 19 career interceptions.
"Our defense has been playing pretty good," said Bigby, who intercepted his lone pass this season in the opener. "Hopefully, we can raise it up a notch and improve. Any improvement is good for us right now."
Titans coach Jeff Fisher thinks adding Bigby, who had five interceptions last season, can only make the Packers better.
"He's a good player, but there's no holes in their defense," Fisher said.
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy credits the turnover success to the defensive lines. The Titans rank eighth with 18 sacks, led by tackle Albert Haynesworth with six, while end Aaron Kampman has six of Green Bay's 12 sacks.
"Their defensive line is playing at a very high level, and we've picked it up up front defensively here during the last couple weeks before the bye, so it's given our perimeter people opportunities to make plays on the ball," McCarthy said.
Kampman calls it working together like a hand in a glove.
"Guys in the backfield do a great job of anticipating the ball, and when it's in the air, they take the attitude, mentality of, `Hey, it's ours,"' Kampman said. "Obviously, hopefully, we're contributing to that a little bit with our pass rush, pressuring quarterbacks, making them feel uncomfortable."
Playing in the secondary and not having an interception is cause for grief from teammates. Tennessee nickel back Vincent Fuller, who returned his two picks for TDs last season, has been shut out so far even though he did tip a ball to Hope on Monday night.
"Vinny has bad hands, so the ball's going to have to be tipped to him," Finnegan joked. "We're just hoping one of the linemen or us tips a ball to him so he can catch it."
That leaves the quarterbacks feeling the need to be even more precise. Collins plans to worry about what the Titans are doing offensively and focus on what he can do to take advantage.
"We're aware they've got some guys who can cover really well, and they've got some ballhawkers back there where they get to the ball and make the interception, so it's going to be a big challenge for us," Collins said.
AP Sports Writer Chris Jenkins in Green Bay, Wisc., contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)