When I tell people I've only seen one Super Bowl since 1991, the reactions vary from disbelief to disdain. Some have even questioned my patriotism, as if being among the millions who feel compelled to watch the game -- or the commercials, for many -- somehow translates to being a true American.
The one I did see was Super Bowl 34 between the Tennessee Titans and St. Louis Rams, so at least I picked a good one to watch. Neither team is going to be anywhere near the Super Bowl next February, unless they have tickets or happen to be driving in the East Rutherford, NJ area. Still, their Week 9 matchup does hold some intrigue and could very well be the difference in one team or the other ultimately slipping into the playoffs before a first round exit.
Arch City is the site for Sunday's contest, CBS providing the television coverage at 1 PM (ET) from the Jones Dome. Tennessee opened as 3 point road chalk despite entering the fracas towing a 3-game losing streak. A 39.5 point total, the lowest found on SBR's live NFL odds this week, is more indicative of impotent offenses on both sides than strong defensive units.
The Rams and Titans have only met twice since their exciting NFL Championship, and the home team has won each time. The most recent clash was nearly four years ago in Nashville, a 47-7 rout for Tennessee thanks in large part to five interceptions by St. Louis rookie backup QB Keith Null who was playing in his first of only four NFL appearances.
Titans Face Former Coach For First Time
One sidebar for the game is St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher facing his former club for the first time. Now in his second year with the Rams, Fisher spent 16 seasons with Houston/Tennessee, taking the franchise to its only Super Bowl appearance in 2000 vs. Dick Vermeil and St. Louis.
Mike Munchak, Fisher's OL coach for 14 of those seasons, is now at the helm in Tennessee and brings his Titans (3-4 straight up, 4-2-1 against the NFL spread) out of their bye week during which owner Bud Adams passed away. Before taking the week off, Tennessee dropped three games to wipe out a nice 3-1 start to the campaign.
Fisher and the Rams (3-5 SU & ATS) have dropped two straight, including a tough 14-9 Monday Night Football setback to Seattle in which St. Louis outplayed the Seahawks everywhere but the scoreboard. It was the first game for the Rams since losing QB Sam Bradford for the season to a knee injury. Backup Kellen Clemens was intercepted twice, one of those setting up a short-field touchdown for Seattle.
Will Either Offense Make An Appearance?
St. Louis' offense wasn't putting up points or filling boxscores before Bradford got hurt. The 339 total yards in Monday night's loss actually represent +36 to the 303 YPG season average, 30th in the NFL.
Tennessee is only a few notches higher at 27th (311 ypg), and the running game has been pathetic the last four contests after rushing for a season-best 170 vs. San Diego in a Week 3 victory. The one redeeming quality turned in by Jake Locker and his crew is giving the ball away only seven times, two of those in the loss to San Francisco just before the bye.
St. Louis picked things up on the ground vs. Seattle, rushing for a season-high 200 yards against a pretty fair Seahawks stop unit. Running more was what we expected to see from Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to take a little pressure off Clemens, and the line responded to spring rookie Zac Stacy for a career-best 134 yards. But Stacy, as well as Benny Cunningham, are both questionable against the Titans with ankle injuries, meaning Daryl Richardson may have to shoulder the load this week.
What's Up With That Total?
Despite the woeful offenses in this game, a quick check of betting trends suggest the 39.5 point total is set too low. St. Louis rang up four straight 'overs' before the MNF loss, and Tennessee games went past the number three of four before the week off. Add in four of the last five between the Rams and Titans going past the hurdle, the lone exception when they met in Super Bowl 34.
The Rams are working on short rest, but at least it has been at home. Even with the Titans well-rested, it's difficult to imagine their offense having a breakout game against a St. Louis defense that was tenacious against the Seahawks. My free NFL pick will be on the total not breeching 40.
My pick: Titans-Rams Under 39.5