Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 4:00 PM
It’s been a horrible season for the Tennessee Titans, who seemingly through in the towel on 2014 when they gave the starting quarterback job go rookie Zach Mettenberger out of LSU. Mettenberger wasn’t one of the hotshot high draft picks (though he’s taken a lot more snaps so far than Johnny Manziel!). You got the sense that Tennessee was already thinking about the 2015 draft when they gave the reigns to Mettenberger.
They sure haven’t played like a team with a burning will to win the last two times out…
*Tennessee (+3.5) lost to Houston 30-16 (trailed 27-3 and 30-9)
*Tennessee (+10) lost at Baltimore 21-7
Garbage time in Mettenberger’s debut helped hide a poor afternoon. If not for a late, meaningless TD, they’d be down on the scoreboard 51-16 even though a bye week gave them extra time to prepare for the second game! Mettenberger was given TWO weeks to get ready for the Ravens, yet could only put one TD on the board.
JIM HURLEY’S key indicators stats are influenced by what was happening before Metterberger got the job. So, let’s mentally subtract some volume as we go through each category.
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Pittsburgh: 6-4 (#24 schedule in USA Today)
Tennessee: 2-7 (#11 schedule in USA Today)
Well, Tennessee was 2-5 without Zach, which is already pretty bad. Pittsburgh has played a fairly easy schedule, gets even easier with the Titans on the dance card. For now…Pittsburgh’s okay, while Tennessee has a chance to be non-competitive.
Pittsburgh: 6.0 on offense, 5.8 on defense
Tennessee: 5.4 on offense, 5.4 on defense
This speaks better for Tennessee’s chance to compete, cover, and maybe even steal a victory. The defense grades out well for the season, and hung tough last week in Baltimore until the second half. Pittsburgh’s only at +0.2, in a season where not a lot of teams are impressing in this stat. We talked about that yesterday in the New England/Indianapolis preview. Is anyone Super Bowl caliber besides Denver?
A very bad sign for Pittsburgh that they’re tied with Tennessee in turnover differential in a season where the Titans have been starting Charlie Whitehurst and Zach Mettenberger. The Steelers have had big troubles forcing turnovers in recent years. Maybe starring in a lot of shampoo commercials hurts your ability to intimidate people! You have to assume that a rookie is going to get the worst if it in this stat against a veteran like Ben Roethlisberger. That won’t happen if Pittsburgh is so passive they don’t force miscues.
Tennessee is 0-2 with the rookie, missing the spread by 10.5 and 4 points. It’s easy to visualize the “best” of Pittsburgh in that blowout win over Indianapolis and the “worst” of Tennessee the past few weeks…and assuming a blowout is in order. Maybe so. The market isn’t expecting it though, based on the current pointspread.
Current Line: Pittsburgh by 6, total of 47
Tennessee had dropped two games by 14 points under the rookie, but is currently getting less than a TD here. Is that justified? The full-season defensive stats…the possibility of a dead-heat in turnovers, and the traditional value of home field advantage would say yes. The “throwing in the towel” vibe of the last two weeks says NO! Handicappers will have to make an evaluation of how seriously Tennessee is going to take this game.
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his sources to pin down the exact mindset of the Titans. Maybe they WANT to lose for draft positioning. In that case, the Steelers are a steal at a touchdown or less. Or, maybe they’d like to atone for a lost season by earning a statement upset in a national TV game. Then, we’re talking about a virtual pick-em considering that Pittsburgh couldn’t even beat the lowly Jets in a similar situation last week!
As is often the case when the topic is Monday Night Football, DON’T MAKE A MOVE UNTIL YOU HEAR WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY!
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