Overview: The Los Angeles Rams can clinch their first NFC West title since 2003 with a win against the Tennessee Titans. They can also clinch even if they lose if Dallas Cowboys beats the Seattle Seahawks, but you would always rather win your way in if possible. The Rams still have an outside chance at first round bye if they can win out. Tennessee's playoff path is more murky. If they can win their last two games they would finish 10-6 and probably, but not definitely, make the playoffs. Even if they lose this game they still have a chance to get in with a win in their season finale against division rival Jacksonville. But as I Rams fan I'm not especially worried about whether the Titans make the playoffs. All I want for Christmas is for the Rams to win the NFC West. That seemed like science fiction--or at least sports fiction-- when the season started. But it could very well happen on Sunday.
Rams Offense vs Titans Defense: Speaking of things that seemed unlikely in September, how about Todd Gurley winning the MVP? Even a week ago that seemed improbable. But after a monster day against Seattle in the Rams huge 42-7 dismantling of the Seahawks, that idea isn't even a little bit crazy. In fact with two weeks left in the regular season, it's very likely a two man race between Gurley and NFL legend Tom Brady. Every week opposing defenses pledge to stop Gurley, and it just never seems to happen (Watch Video Below).
Todd Gurley Untouched For 57-Yard Touchdown
Of course, when a team rushes for over 250 yards against one of the league's better defenses, as the Rams did last week, they guys upfront are playing a big part as well. You seldom see one NFL unit dominate another opponent the way the Rams O-line whipped Seattle's defensive line last week. Seahawks defensive tackle Michael Bennett, made it quite in his post game press conference (Watch Video Below). I don't know why none of the Rams O-lineman wasn't named to the pro bowl, but there isn't a better line in the league right now. The Rams receiving corp is back at full strength, and Gurley is a major factor in the air attack as well. There is also Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp to worry about, not to mention tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. The Rams only passed for 120 yards last week, but that was mostly because Gurley and the running game were so dominant. The Titans are 25th in the league against the pass, giving up an average of 200 yards per fame this season. I would be willing to bet the Rams at least double their passing yardage from last week in this game . I also think Gurley will easily top 100 yards rushing. If I am right on both of those subjects, the Rams should win, barring a rash of turnovers.
Gurley Humbles Michael Bennett
Rams Defense vs Titans Offense: If you wonder why many people consider Aaron Donald not only the best defensive player in the NFL, but maybe the best player period, check out last week's game at Seattle. I am old enough to have seen most of the game's elite defensive linemen. Reggie White. Warren Sapp. Howie Long. I think Aaron Donald has a chance to be better than any of them, if he isn't already. The way he dominated the Seahawks last week almost defies description. Double teaming him didn't work. The athleticism of one of the league's most mobile quarter backs didn't work. Officially, AD had three sacks, four quarterback hits, two tackles for a loss and a forced fumble (Watch Video Below).
Aaron Donald Dominating Game Against Russell Wilson
But the funny thing is that if you watched the game, those numbers don't even tell the whole story. The rest of the defense was stellar as well. Linebacker Robert Quinn seems to be heating up, Connor Barwin had one of his better games, and Rams defense as a whole had maybe their best performance of the season. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has been battling leg and ankle problems, and it has hurt his mobility. In general he hasn't had the kind of year he would like, although tight end Delanie Walker is always a concern for opposing defenses. My guess is that the Titans will try to run the ball with Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry, both to dampen the Rams pass rush and take advantage of a defense that has had it's problems stopping the run at times (not last week however). If Tennessee can run the ball and control the clock, they have a chance in this game.
Kicker Greg "The Leg" Zuerlein Placed On I.R.
Special Teams: The Rams got some really bad news this week when they were forced to put kicker Greg Zuerlein on injured reserve, ending his season. They signed former Penn State kicker Sam Ficken as his replacement. Zuerlein is probably the best kicker in the league, and losing him hurts the team. Even so, the Rams have the best special teams in the league, and they continue to come up with big plays. Pharoh Cooper killed it against Seattle last week, and has been named to the NFC Pro Bowl, with good reason. (Watch Video)
Pharoh Cooper Long Return
He leads the league in total kickoff return yardage and is second in total punt return yardage, despite the fact that he didn't return punts until the third game of the season. Punter Johnny Hekker, was also named to the Pro Bowl, and he is just simply the best punter alive. As a former high school quarterback he is also a constant threat on the fake punt. The Rams excel in all phases of special teams play. Although we'll have to see how Ficken does--he's never kicked a field goal or extra point in an NFL regular season game--the Rams special teams always seem to play well this season.RSS Feed
Prediction: On paper Los Angeles should win this game. But there are some concerns. Will they come out flat after playing their best game since the Greatest Show on Turf days last week? Will they be overconfident against a Titan team that has been struggling? We won't find out until Sunday. But I like the Rams in this one.
Rams 34 Titans 24