The surprisingly 20th ranked (by DVOA) Titans head to Los Angeles to take on the 4th rated Rams this Sunday night. The Titans (6-2) are coming off a roller coaster OT victory, where the team survived not one, but two of the top 5 worst coaching decisions of the week according to EDJ Sports. And the Rams (7-1) are hot off an easy (even easier then the final score made it seem) victory over the hapless Texans. Both teams come into the game with above a 90% chance of making the playoffs according to the Football Outsiders Playoff Odds Model, but things look very different with the Titans as they lost star RB Derrick Henry to injury (a much overdue one, if we are being honest to simple math). Although smart bettors know RBs don’t really matter, the lone exception for the last 3 years has been Henry. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Titans operate without their bellcow moving forward.
Ryan’s Season Totals
Assigned Games: 9-8
Best Bets: 15-8, Up 858%
- Opening Line: Los Angeles -7.5
- Current Line: Los Angeles -7.5
- Over/Under: 53.5
- Location: SoFi Stadium Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
- Start Time: 1:00 PM EST, SUN 10/31
- Last Meeting: Rams 27, Titans 23 in Tennessee in 2017
The Rams came into the season hoping that any of their offensive futility the last couple seasons was caused by the QB position, and not the coach/system. Thus far in 2021, that does seem to be the case. One specific datapoint that captures this effect is deep passing. Last season, with Jared Goff at QB, the Rams completed deep passes (> 15 yards downfield) at a 15% rate, or 15th in the NFL. This season that number is upto 21% and leads the league. So it’s very fair to assume an offense, and its OC who is fantastic at scheming space and separation for his targets horizontally throughout the field, only needed a QB with the arm, and guts to open it up vertically.
For the Titans, much was said this offseason of how the divorce from the “Ryan Tannehill, Arthur Smith” marriage would affect this offense. Up until last week it seemed the offense would continue their winning formula regardless: Let Henry wear down defenses, while the offense utilizes play-action passing that shreds the middle of the field. Without Henry, many will point to the likely decrease in efficiency in play-action passing to come, despite the fact many in the analytics field have disproven “you need to run the ball to setup the pass”.
Although at first glance, the #2 rated Coverage unit in the Titans defense (according to PFF), vs. Cooper Kupp and the #4 rated Rams Receiving unit, seems intriguing, there are far too many matchups in this game leaning in the Rams’ favor. To start, beyond the fact that Henry is out (and his -.17 EPA/play according to SIS On/Off Report) the Rams return LT Andrew Whitworth, and key defensive contributor in Joseph Day. Both players offered double digit EPA/play added to their team when on the field (vs. off). Additionally, given Tannehill’s 5th highest Aggressiveness rank, coupled with the Rams strong pass coverage, our model is calling for 1-2 picks likely to be thrown by Tannehill. Lastly, and probably most damning, Tannehill has the 5th biggest dropoff in production vs the blitz, and the Rams being a top 10 blitzing team, all these variables are adding up to a long day for Tannehill and the Titans.
- Against the spread, Los Angeles is 4-5-0 this season.
- As a 7.5-point favorite or greater, the Rams have two wins ATS (2-3).
- Tennessee games have had over 54 points four times this year.
For as much as I enjoy watching Derrick Henry run, it’s hard to say I (and everyone else) didn’t see this coming. The Titans have been flirting with disaster for a couple years now, running their bell cow back into the ground. Now, knowing that “Math is undefeated”, the Titans need to try to find a new identity. Unfortunately, both from raw talent, tactics, and multiple advanced matchups it looks like they will have a tough time with the Rams.
Prediction: Rams 30, Titans 16