Titans facing must-win with Rams close to clinching NFC West
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee linebacker Brian Orakpo has made it very clear to the rest of the Titans that their postseason already is underway.
Yes, two weeks early.
“That’s the mindset we have to have going into this game, and I believe the Rams are going to have the same mindset, as well, trying to win that division,” Orakpo said. “It’s going to be a great game.”
The Los Angeles Rams (10-4) need a win or a Seattle loss Sunday to clinch their first NFC West title since 2003 and cap their amazing turnaround under coach Sean McVay in his first season. The Rams are coming off a 42-7 thumping of the Seahawks in Seattle for their third win in four games.
“We don’t shy away from the opportunity to go in a tough atmosphere, try to come away with our 11th win,” McVay said. “And we know that if we’re able to accomplish that — that means a division championship as well. So it’s a great opportunity.”
The Titans (8-6) are home after back-to-back losses, the last one being 25-23 to San Francisco, cost them the AFC South lead.
Still, a win and losses by Buffalo and Baltimore would clinch the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2008 before hosting division rival Jacksonville in the regular-season finale. The Titans are at home, where they have won nine of their past 10.
“Guys understand the situation,” Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota said. “When it comes down to it, we messed up. We didn’t play well, we obviously didn’t accomplish what we wanted to do on our road trip. That’s in the past, you can’t change it, you can’t fix it. All you can do is look forward to the next one, and kind of right the ship and get it going.”
Here are some things to know about the Rams and Titans:
HEY YOU: The No. 1 pick in 2016 that the Rams used to select quarterback Jared Goff came in a trade with the Titans two weeks before the draft.
Now, Goff finally gets to face the team that didn’t need a quarterback because the Titans already have Mariota, the No. 2 pick overall in 2015.
Goff has been so very good on the road this season, throwing for 1,547 yards with 14 touchdowns and only two interceptions with a 108.1 passer rating. He has been sacked only nine times away from home.
Goff said he hadn’t thought of his Tennessee connection until asked. His take: “Awesome.”
SLOW DOWN GURLEY: Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley leads the NFL with 17 total touchdowns and ranks second with 1,817 yards from scrimmage. He’s also coming off a game in which he scored four touchdowns. The Titans rank third against the run in the NFL, allowing only 87.2 yards rushing per game.
WATCH OUT: This game features two of the NFL’s top-five defenses at sacking quarterbacks. The Rams, led by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Aaron Donald, rank second with 47 sacks, with four having at least five apiece. The Titans now rank fifth with 40 sacks, thanks to piling up 26 in the past five games.
Linebacker Derrick Morgan has a team-high 7 sacks despite missing the past two games with an injured knee, and he’s one of four Titans with at least five sacks each. Jacksonville, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are the only other teams in the league featuring four players with at least five sacks.
ROOKIE RECEIVERS: The Titans took the first receiver in this year’s draft, selecting Corey Davis from Western Michigan at No. 5 overall. The Rams selected Cooper Kupp in the third round out of Eastern Washington.
Los Angeles got the much better deal — at least based on the early results. Davis missed most of the preseason with a hamstring injury that also cost him five of the first seven games this season. Davis still is looking for his first NFL touchdown after fumbling at the goal-line in November.
Kupp has started only five games, but he leads the Rams with 58 catches and 804 yards receiving. He also leads all rookies in yards receiving, and no rookie receiver has as many catches.
NEW KICKER: The Rams will have a healthy kicker, but not their Pro Bowler and the NFL’s leading scorer in Greg Zuerlein , who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday before surgery to repair a herniated disc.
The Rams signed Sam Ficken, an undrafted free agent from Penn State, after working out kickers. Ficken has been in camp with the Jaguars and Chiefs, but his first field goal attempt Sunday will be his first in the regular season.