When the Titans were 0-6 following the 59-0 beatdown in Beantown, the outlook for the rest of the season was pretty dim. However, there was one ray of hope still remaining on the horizon. The St. Louis Rams were on the schedule, a matchup that would provide an opportunity for the Titans to avert a Detroit Lion-like perfect record.
That matchup comes to fruition this week as the feckless, hapless Rams come to visit the Titans in a meeting between two teams enduring disappointing seasons. (That's something else good about this week, I get to use words like feckless and hapless when writing about a team other than the Titans.)
The 2008 Rams finished 2-14, poor enough to select second in the draft this year. The bad news for St. Louis is that team may have been better than this year's edition, which is currently 1-11 and vying with Cleveland and Tampa Bay for the dishonor of selecting first in the 2010 draft. The Rams only victory this year came against the 2-10 Lions on a fake field goal.
New coach Steve Spagnuolo, the former Giants defensive coordinator, seems to have a philosophy Titans fans are familiar with. Run the football, keep the score close and hope to win with a fourth-quarter field goal.
Of course, in Spagnuolo's case, he can't be blamed so much for that. When you have a big gun, shoot it. If you have only one gun, shoot it as often as possible, which is what Spags has done.
RB Steven Jackson is the only gun in the Rams' arsenal and he's been their workhorse on offense. Jackson leads the league with 266 rushing attempts and is second to Chris Johnson in rushing yardage with 1,232 to CJ's 1,509. Last week, #39 rushed for 112 yards despite a bad back in cold weather, not an easy feat.
When SJ39 isn't running the ball, the Rams try to pass out of a West Coast offense. Unfortunately for Rams fans, it's more West Coast than it is offense and St. Louis is 2,000 miles from the West Coast.
Whether it's been Marc Bulger or Kyle Boller taking the snaps, the results have been the same. The Rams simply have problems getting the ball into the end zone.
In four games already this year, the Rams have failed to score a touchdown. They average only 11.6 points per game, dead last in the NFL.
The Rams are last in red zone scoring percentage at 57%. Every other team in the league is over 70%, which is a huge disparity. They're also last in red zone touchdown percentage (32%), one of only two teams (Buffalo, 33%) below 42%.
The most meaningful touchdown the Rams have scored this year came on special teams, a fake field goal which resulted in the win over the Lions. Other than that and a defensive score, the Rams have only 12 TDs on the season, an average of exactly one per game.
On the other side of the ball, the Lambs are 28th in the league in scoring defense, yielding 26.2 ppg. (The Titans are 29th, followed by the Chiefs, Bucs and Lions.)
To make things worse for St. Louis, they've just lost their best defender for the rest of the season, free safety Oshiomogho (O.J.) Atgowe. The Rams do have two promising youngsters on defense, both with famous fathers. DE Chris Long (son of HoF DL Howie Long) and MLB James Laurinaitis (son of wrestler Road Warrior Animal) should be future stars for them.
The St. Louis defense is very generous against the run, ceding 4.6 yards per attempt and 146 yards per game, so I expect CJ to have a great chance to go north of 200 this week in his quest for 2,000. It's such a great storyline this week that I believe it deserves an article of its own, which you'll see here in another day or two.
Prediction: The simple outlook for this week's game is a Chris Johnson vs Steven Jackson matchup. Expect each of them to get 30 or more touches in a fast-paced contest. Since the Titans have a better rush defense and a more balanced offense, they have a decided edge.
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