The Tennessee Titans lead the AFC with a 6-2 record while the Los Angeles Rams are tied for the best record in the league at 7-1. This could be a good matchup on Sunday night, but the Titans are going to have to get by without Derrick Henry, the league’s leading rusher following foot surgery. Meanwhile, the Rams just traded for Von Miller, who should make his team debut.
The Rams (4-4 ATS) are a 7.5-point favorite. Tennessee (6-2 ATS) has been a good bet this season, but can they do it again on the road without Henry? Below, we’ll take a look at the early NFL odds and the top-rated sportsbook to bet with this week.
Tennessee Titans vs. Los Angeles Rams
Sunday, November 07, 2021 – 08:20 PM EST at SoFi Stadium
Titans Can Survive Without Henry
There is no denying that Derrick Henry is a special running back in an era where there are so few like him. But his injury was inevitable given the workload the Titans have been giving him the last few years. This season, outside of the Week 1 blowout loss to Arizona, Henry carried the ball at least 20 times in each of the last seven games, the longest streak in the NFL since Ezekiel Elliott had an eight-game streak in 2017.
The good news is that Henry’s absence does not mean the Titans have to completely abandon the running game. Jeremy McNichols only has 56 career carries, but he has been with the team the last two years and is currently the third-leading receiver this year. McNichols often has played on third downs as a receiving back when Henry went to the sidelines. Tennessee also signed veteran Adrian Peterson, who can plod along with the goal of breaking 15,000 career rushing yards.
We have very little evidence of what this offense looks like without Henry for a full game as the only time he’s missed a game with Ryan Tannehill as the starting quarterback was against the 2019 Saints, an elite team that beat the Titans 38-28. But in that game, the Titans got 24 carries for 92 yards out of their backs while also scheming a 49-yard touchdown run by wide receiver A.J. Brown. The game was a loss because of the defense and a late fumble by a wide receiver (Kalif Raymond) while the Titans were down 31-28.
In the last two weeks, the Titans have defeated the Chiefs and Colts despite Henry being ineffective with 57 carries for 154 yards and no touchdowns. Can the Titans do better than 2.7 yards per play on 57 snaps without using Henry? Of course.
The only way this becomes a serious problem is if the passing game is not at full strength. Wide receiver Julio Jones was inactive on Sunday and has been bothered by a hamstring injury. He returned to practice on Wednesday and could be available for this one. He’ll need to be or else the Rams could just use corner Jalen Ramsey to shadow A.J. Brown, who has come on strong the last few weeks as the No. 1 option. The Titans do not have much going for them after those two receivers.
Matthew Stafford: MVP?
Depending on where you look, you can find Matthew Stafford with the third or fourth-best MVP odds going into Week 9. That may be a value pick as he is No. 1 in many efficiency metrics, including QBR and DVOA. Stafford is second in passing yards and touchdowns despite throwing 70 fewer passes than Tom Brady this season. He also has that angle of joining the Rams and greatly improving their passing offense from a year ago. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp is playing at an All-Pro level right now.
The Rams lead all offenses with 3.18 points per drive, but the defense could use a boost if it is going to be Super Bowl-caliber this year. Currently, the Rams rank ninth in points allowed per drive, but they are 18th in yards. The Rams traded a second and third-round pick to the Broncos in exchange for future Hall of Famer Von Miller to pair with Aaron Donald upfront.
Miller should be able to thrive in this defense and his presence will be needed in the big matchups when the Rams have to beat the Cardinals, Cowboys, Packers, or Buccaneers in the playoffs.
The Rams do not have any discernible weakness so far. Stafford has been great with Kupp, and No. 3 receiver Van Jefferson has improved in his second season. Darrell Henderson has done a fine job in replacing Cam Akers (Achilles) at running back. Donald and the defense are doing enough outside of the Arizona loss.
It just comes down to staying healthy and trusting that Stafford will continue to deliver against the good teams. He infamously came into this season with an 8-68 record against teams that finish the season with a winning record. So far, he is likely looking at a 1-1 record in that area with a win over Tampa Bay and a loss to Arizona. The Titans are the third-best team the Rams will face in their first nine games.
Stafford has never logged multiple wins in the same season against winning teams, so unless the Buccaneers are about to implode or if the Titans fall apart after this game, he has a chance to do that here.
In the category of incredible stats, Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel is 12-2 ATS and 11-3 SU as an underdog of at least four points since 2018. He is 18-7 ATS and 17-8 SU as an underdog of at least three points. Los Angeles coach Sean McVay is 19-3 SU and 12-9-1 ATS as a favorite of more than seven points in his career.
The underdog role suits Tennessee well. Since 2019, Tannehill leads all quarterbacks in fourth-quarter comebacks (10) and game-winning drives (12). The Titans can come back and make it close with anyone. We’ve seen the Rams challenged in the fourth quarter by the Colts and Lions this year, so they are not an invincible super team. The Titans won’t turn into the Texans without Henry.
I am going to trust the Titans to keep this one close enough for a cover to end your NFL picks this Sunday.
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.