QB Locker was crisp and accurate for the most part against the 49ers, but his limited mobility was apparent when he went to scramble. His interception was an ugly one, but let's not forget it is also his first of the season. He has 9 total TDs thus far so I'm not getting hung up. Locker will have an easier day against a Rams secondary that hasn't been performing particularly well of late, especially where former-Titan Cortland Finnegan is concerned. Locker has had a plenty of time now to heal up and prepare, and reports are out that he remained in Nashville during the BYE week to work out and rehab. I think he'll have a very good day Sunday.
Chris Johnson needs to channel his former self some more against a Ram's defense that has been stingy of late. That said, he was running better against the 49ers, who are no slouches themselves, before the game became out of reach. I think him and Shonn Greene will finally start to show us what the plan was when Webster brought in the ex-Jet for his two-punch attack.
The offensive line need to build on running game against 49ers. Brian Schwenke played well in his first start, and I think he has a chance to be even better this week. If the line can spring CJ and Greene, and keep the offense on schedule, that will prevent the Rams from pinning their ears back on third down and gunning for the QB. Stopping Robert Quinn (+4.0 per PPF last week) and Chris Long will be a big task, but they are not facing backup tackles this week and I feel the Titans have a decent chance to negate their impact at least a little because of that fact. Roos and Stewart are no longer in their primes, but they are more than capable at this point. This is a stretch where I will be looking for Warmack to start flashing some growth, and some stellar play from Levitre would be great too.
The Wideouts and Tight Ends have some favorable match-ups this week. The Rams have gotten to see why the Titans had begun transitioning Finnegan to the slot. He is not a capable defender on the outside at this point, and the decline in his speed and coverage abilities has him ranked as the worst starting corner in football. Expect Locker to pick on him all day. I expect big days from Wright, Washington, and Walker (WWW?) and would love to see Loggains get Hunter more involved in a game which could see some big mis-matches on that side of the ball.
The defensive line will have one central task this week: stop Zac Stacy. The Rams runner has been a weapon for them lately, piling up yardage and missed tackles aplenty. With Kellen Clemens under center in place of the injured Sam Bradford, the Rams will try to win on the ground or die trying. Ropati Pitoitua will have a tough battle to win against Jake Long, and hopefully Morgan will be 100% on the other side to generate some pressure when called upon. I think Casey and Hill will be the biggest factors in the trenches though, as stuffing this Rams running game will mean victory. Casey also put up a +3.3 rating per PFF in the pass rushing department last week...that is an incredible grade for a 4-3 DT. His growth this year has been nothing short of incredible.
Ayers (+3.9) led the Linebackers last week in a forgettable performance. Too often were they out-schemed, which allowed Kaepernick and the 49ers to throw and scramble at will. Gray and Williams have an easier match-up this week preparing for Klemens (especially after this group in past weeks: Rivers, Smith, Wilson, Kaepernick) and I think it will allow Brown and co. to shine. I hope they line Brown up on Cook often, because Zach has the speed to keep pace, and will humiliate Cook if it comes down to blocking. The backers' will be asked to swarm the gaps and crowd the line on early downs, and I think they will do a good job against a Ram's offense with few weapons, and no idea how to use those they have.
The corners look to have some favorable match-ups as well this week. The Rams receivers don't instill fear in many at the moment, and that doesn't bode well going up against ATV and McCourty, one of the best CB tandems in the NFL this year. With Griffin likely not 100%, look for George Wilson to rotate in. Amazingly for all his knocks, Griffin has never missed a game, but that streak is in real jeopardy this week.
My prayers were answered...sort of. Williams will now be returning kicks and I couldn't be happier. It's also probably a good thing that not a lot of teams have had a chance at returning the ball often on kickoffs against the Rams, especially at their dome-covered home turf. The kick coverage unit will need to be diligent in handling Tavon Austin though.
I see a coming out party for this Tennessee defense in this one. In the same way the Rams beat up on the Seahawks depleted line last week, the Titans defenders will make good on their advantages in this one. Fisher's squad have plenty of talent on board, especially on the defensive line (who would have thought?) so it will be a hard-fought battle in the trenches all day. A well-recovered Locker will have plenty of chances to put the game to bed I think, and while it is far beyond me to write off any game as a sure-win, I think the Titans top the Rams Sunday in the beginning of a push for the playoffs.