PRO FOOTBALL THURSDAY, OCT. 11
This Thursday night the nation will get to see a Tennessee team that’s having a horrible year of historic proportions.
Start with the fact the Titans have allowed 30-plus points in each of their first five games. That’s been accomplished once before in NFL history, in 1954 by the Chicago Cardinals. Ironically, Chicago snapped that streak in its next game with a 17-14 home victory vs. Pittsburgh.
The Titans’ secondary is at the root of the problem, with a defensive passer rating of 112.4, which in essence turns every enemy QB into the league’s top-rated passer. No defense in history has had that bad a mark over a full season.
On the coaching end, this will be the sixth consecutive year Super Bowl-winning Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin will be preparing for a Thursday midweek game, going 4-1 SU (3-2 ATS), although in 2009 he lost 13-9 at Cleveland as a 10-point favorite.
For second-year Tennessee boss Mike Munchak, this is not only his first time to prepare on three day rest, but only his second on short rest at all. His Titans, who still were in the running for a playoff berth in Week 16 last year, won just 23-17 at home over an in-the-tank Jacksonville squad on five day rest as an 8-point favorite.
Anyway, on for a closer look at the game:
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) at Tennessee Titans (1-4)
Time: 5:25 p.m. PDT
Line: Steelers -5½ (42)
Facts: The last time a road team was a bigger favorite in a midseason Thursday game was Houston at -6½ vs. Indy in Week 16 last year. The Colts won, 19-16.• When the Steelers played at Tennessee in Week 2 of 2010, they won 19-11 as a 6-point underdog. Pittsburgh hasn’t been that big of an underdog since. • Pittsburgh will be without playmaking safety Troy Polamalu (calf), with LB LaMarr Woodley doubtful (hamstring). For the Titans, veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck will start for the second straight week for Jake Locker (out, shoulder). Hasselbeck is averaging 5.52 yards a drop-back, putting him No. 32 on the passer chart.
Analysis: The Titans’ woes aren’t concentrated on defense. Tennessee is one of two teams without a rushing TD and Chris Johnson is averaging only 2.9 yards a carry with a long of 19. In 2009, he led the league with 22 rushes of 20-plus yards. That puts the onus on a passing game led by a 37-year-old QB who has to be questioning why he’s risking body parts going against a team renown for accumulating fines for its vicious hits.
As for the home team having an edge in midseason Thursday games, maybe they do – going 8-6 ATS the past two seasons. But that wasn’t the case in Week 2 when another Super Bowl-winning coach, Tom Coughlin, helped steer the Giants to a 36-7 victory over another second-year boss, Ron Rivera.
Forecast: Steelers 27, Titans 12
“Popular” Bob Christ has been forecasting NFL games for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in newspapers from coast to coast in Canada and the U.S. Contact him at [email protected].