The Sports Guy’s Thursday NFL Pick

Skunk of the WeekThe Tennessee Titans have been outscored 88-181 through five weeks, which means they’re giving up an astonishing 36.2 points per game. They’re on pace to break Baltimore’s 1981 record of points allowed for a single season (551). Their opponents are averaging nearly 425 yards of offense per game, and opposing quarterbacks have a gaudy 112.4 QB rating against them. They’ve recorded 81 first downs and given up 129. All four Titans losses were by 20 points or more. In their only win (a 44-41 overtime thriller over the Lions), they scored a record four touchdowns of 60 yards or more, including a backward pass on a punt, a kick return, an interception in which the defender pulled the ball away from the receiver, and a TD catch in which the receiver reached three feet down over a d-back in mid-air and somehow caught the ball, kept his balance and kept running. They don’t have a QB on pace for 2,500 yards passing, nor do they have a running back on pace for 700 yards rushing or a receiver on pace for 900 yards receiving. Their best player (Chris Johnson) is rushing for 2.9 yards per carry, slaughtered hundreds of thousands of fantasy teams across America yet again, and might be waiting tables at Vince Young’s Steakhouse within the next two months. Their only explosive offensive player (Kenny Britt) still isn’t healthy enough to play. Their coach (Mike Munchak) has been under fire for refusing to bench Johnson or shake up his coaching staff. Their offensive coordinator is the always-embattled Chris Palmer, who couldn’t handle calling the plays for a vigorous game of Madden at this point. Even advanced metrics hates the Titans: Football Outsiders ranks them 32nd in DVOA with a rating of negative 40.7, among the lowest numbers ever measured if that holds up. With the Steelers coming to Tennessee tonight, it’s hard to think of a single reason to grab the Titans and seven points.

Well, here’s another reason — I don’t believe in the Steelers at all right now. They’re slightly above-average at best, and the numbers through five weeks back it up. Tonight’s line is three points too high simply because Vegas knows that nobody wants to take Tennessee. Can you really get blown out three weeks in a row? Might Tennessee’s defense have looked so porous because they played the no. 1, 4 and 6 offenses so far AND caught San Diego and Minnesota on the wrong days? Aren’t they due for another half-decent game? Why am I feeling like tonight will end up being Matt Hasselbeck’s last hurrah before he retires, then murders Trent Dilfer and takes over the Token Bald Ex-QB spot on Monday Night Countdown? Why am I even feeling … [gasp] … a long Chris Johnson touchdown run? Why do I like this crappy pick so much? Should I stop drinking during the day? I can’t fight it anymore … Tennessee, you’ve been sprayed.

The Pick: Pittsburgh 24, Tennessee 23 (Titans cover)

Wednesday/Thursday Nights: 1-4
Last Week: 8-6
Season: 39-37-2

Filed Under: NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans

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Bill Simmons is the editor-in-chief of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, click here.

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