Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, August 22, 2015 at 2:00 PM
The top two NFL draft picks from the Spring of 2015 will be front and center the next two days on network television. Marcos Mariota of the Tennessee Titans will face the St. Louis Rams Sunday on FOX. Monday, it’s Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Bucs at home against the Cincinnati Bengals on this year’s formal first edition of “Monday Night Football” on ESPN.
Both potential stars had turnover issues last week in their debuts. But, both also showed why their respective franchises are ready to throw them in the deep end so quickly. Let’s deal with Mariota and the Titans today. Then, we’ll come back tomorrow for a NOTEBOOK preview of the Monday Nighter.
You’ve grown accustomed to these key indicator stats through our summer series of NFL divisional previews that ended yesterday. Let’s run our matchups in that same format…
2014 RECORDS (turnovers, strength of schedule)
St. Louis: 6-10 (-2 turnovers, #13 rated schedule)
Tennessee: 2-14 (-10 turnovers, #19 rated schedule)
St. Louis had quarterback issues all season, while Tennessee was arguably in the tank so they could get either Mariota or Winston. Both teams are looking to improve in 2015. Nick Foles is now the Rams quarterback by way of Philadelphia. It will be interesting to see if his productivity as an Eagle was the result of their system or his arm. Why were the Eagles so ready to part with him? Not exactly a marquee matchup….but one that’s more interesting than those records would suggest.
St. Louis: 5.3 on offense, 5.6 on defense
Tennessee: 5.3 on offense, 5.4 on defense
Check that out! Tennessee was near equilibrium despite their poor record. That does suggest some tanking. If Mariota can keep them around 5.3 while not making turnovers…this team could jump to respectability quickly. Note that Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt is an offensive guru. The Rams weren’t far off equality even with all of their quarterback injuries. They’re certainly hoping Foles can make a run near 6.0 in this stat offensively.
2014 THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
St. Louis: 35% on offense, 39% on defense
Tennessee: 30% on offense, 41% on defense
Plenty of work to do on offense here. We’ve told you for years that this is a great indicator stat for charting the growth of young quarterbacks. As you grade the report card for both Foles and Mariota in the regular season, be sure you pay a lot of attention to moving the chains. Mariota always made that a point of emphasis at Oregon…which should help his learning curve. Neither defense can talk about greatness until they knock a few points off what you see above.
2015 PROJECTED WIN TOTALS IN LAS VEGAS
St. Louis 7.5 or 8
That’s improvement for both…but could just be considered regression towards the mean in the marketplace. Oddsmakers generally shade everyone back toward the .500 mark from whatever they accomplished in a given year. Though they’re coming from further back…Tennessee probably has the better chance to go Over its total considering the help Mariota will be getting from experienced teammates and his head coach. St. Louis is hoping to fly past stumbling San Francisco this season. Their playoff hopes rest on the throwing arm of Foles.
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS
St. Louis (+1) lost at Oakland 17-3, getting outgained 317-285
Tennessee (+2.5) lost at Atlanta 31-24, winning yardage 371-323
The Titans lost the turnover department 3-1 in that loss to the Falcons. A great sign that the team could make it to 371 yards during a relatively quiet offensive week across the league. If they can clean up their execution…the team will “arrive” quickly. Big “if” with a rookie QB of course. Both are in bounce back mode. Tennessee may have more motivation given the home crowd and St. Louis having to start with two road games before their dress rehearsal. Whom do you want to trust in this TV game?
JIM HURLEY is definitely looking closely at this one. But, Green Bay/Pittsburgh and Dallas/San Francisco are also on the Sunday schedule. You can purchase the final word for Sunday (football and baseball!) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 before the early games begin…or during normal business hours Monday through Friday.
A great mix of football and baseball coming up the next several days here in the NOTEBOOK. Here’s what’s on tap…
Monday: NFL TV Preview…Cincinnati at Tampa Bay on ESPN
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…Chicago Cubs at San Francisco
Wednesday: MLB Big Game Preview…Baltimore at Kansas City
Thurs-Friday: NFL TV Preview…Detroit at Jacksonville on CBS
Saturday: NFL TV Preview…Seattle at San Diego on CBS
Sunday: NFL TV Preview…Houston at New Orleans on FOX
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