Tennessee Titans (3-4) at St. Louis Rams (3-5)
On paper, these two teams are pretty equal. The Titans are 21st in rate of moving the chains differential, while the Rams are 22nd. The Titans move the chains at a 70% rate, as opposed to 72% for their opponents, while the Rams are moving the chains at a 72% rate, as opposed to 74% for their opponents. However, these two teams are trending in opposite directions at the quarterback position. While the Rams are going into their 2nd full game without quarterback Sam Bradford, the Titans are going into their 2nd full game with quarterback Jake Locker back from injury.
Kellen Clemens, Bradford’s backup, is now the starter in St. Louis and he played as you would have expected him to play against an elite defense last week against the Seahawks, going 15 of 31 for 158 yards and 2 interceptions, while failing to lead the Rams to an offensive touchdown. The Rams kept it close against the Seahawks thanks to an inspired effort by the Rams’ defense in a 14-9 loss, but I question if they can keep that up. That performance was pretty uncharacteristic when you look at their whole season. If they can’t, the Rams are going to be in a lot of trouble.
The Titans, meanwhile, were 3-1 when Jake Locker went down with injury. They’ve lost their last 3 games, the first two with limited backup Ryan Fitzpatrick and the third with a clearly unhealthy Jake Locker, who was forced back too soon. Now after a bye for Locker to rest, he should be much better than he was last time, 2 weeks removed from his last performance, and he should be better than Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The schedule also gets easier for the Titans. It also didn’t help that those 3 games were against the Chiefs, Seahawks, and 49ers. Those might not be the best three teams in the NFL, but certainly no reasonable person would call you crazy if you named those 3 as the best three teams in the NFL. The Titans were actually competitive in 2 of those 3 games, a testament to their strong defense. If Locker can continue playing solid football like he was pre-injury, the Titans should be able to play like they did when they started the season 3-1, now that the tough part of their season is over.
Given that, I think it’s very reasonable that the Titans are favored by 3 here. The line might actually be too low if anything. The Seahawks/Rams line shifted 6 points when Bradford went down and rightfully so. This line suggests that the Rams would be favored by 3 here if Bradford were healthy, which suggests that the Rams with Sam Bradford and the Titans with Jake Locker are essentially equivalent teams, which I don’t think is true.
The fact that the Titans deserve to be road favorites is especially relevant considering how well road favorites play coming out of byes, going 45-18 ATS since 2002. The Titans are a quality football team and should be completely focused and run over a significantly inferior football team here. The Rams, meanwhile, could be completely flat 6 days removed from a last second loss to hated divisional rival Seattle.
They’re also in a bad spot as they go to Indianapolis next week, when they’re expected to be 12 point underdogs. Teams are 33-68 ATS before being double digit underdogs since 2010. The Rams probably will not be focused enough to pull the upset, which is essentially what they’d have to do to cover this 3 point spread, as only about 8% of games are decided by less than 3 points. The Titans, meanwhile, have no distractions with a home game against the Jaguars on deck. I think this could easily be a blowout and the Titans are a high confidence pick.
Tennessee Titans 24 St. Louis Rams 13
Pick against spread: Tennessee -3