There are more subplots to Sunday’s Rams-Titans game at SoFi Stadium than there are Hollywood stars who will likely be in attendance.
The week began with news of Titans running back Derrick Henry’s foot injury, and it continued with the Rams acquiring Broncos pass-rushing demon Von Miller to strengthen what already was a Rams’ strength.
The Titans reacted to the Henry injury by signing the ageless Adrian Peterson.
The Titans (6-2) are the current top playoff seed in the AFC, and the Rams (7-1) are tied for the best record in the league and to top spot in the NFC West. Both teams will enter this game riding four-game winning streaks.
It’s not out of the question to consider this a preview of the Super Bowl, which will be played at SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13.
Miller, who has been nursing an ankle injury, is expected to make his debut for the Rams, playing alongside Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd on a team already leading the NFL in sacks. Miller has 4.5 sacks this season. The Titans have allowed the fourth-most sacks in the league.
“You hear stories of the Fearsome Foursome, you hear stories of this legendary defense, and we want to recreate that,’’ Miller said this week. “They’ve been playing great defense all year. I just want to add some of the things that I do best.’’
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be the first to go up against this formidable group — and he’ll be doing it without Henry, the NFL’s leading rusher.
“Can’t say I love facing him, but a ton of respect for him and know that he is a dangerous player,’’ Tannehill said of Miller.
Rams head coach Sean McVay sounded bummed that his team would not be facing Henry, who’s expected to miss 6-10 weeks after having surgery on the foot.
“I hate that, because he’s a great football player,’’ McVay said. “He’s a dominant player. I love watching the way this guy has competed and really done so many special things for that offense over the last handful of years. I still think they’ll probably keep a similar identity, but Derrick Henry, he’s one of one the way that he’s played these last handful of years.’’
It’s not known what, if any, role Peterson will have for the Titans on such short notice. Whether or not he plays, the Titans will use a group approach at running back, with Jeremy McNichols, Dontrell Hilliard and D’Onta Foreman.
“We will kind of see where everything goes as it plays out through the week and see which guys will be available to play for us on Sunday,’’ Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said.
Peterson, 36, finished with 156 carries for 604 yards and seven touchdowns with the Lions last season. He has 14,820 career rushing yards, the fifth most all time.
McVay doesn’t expect the Titans to change their offensive philosophy without Henry.
“They’re a really physical football team,’’ McVay said. “That embodies the personality of Coach Vrabel, who’s done a great job since he’s been there. That’s really what shows up in all three phases. I do expect them to still take a similar approach, offensively.
“You’re not naive to the fact that Derrick Henry has been producing at a level that’s unmatched over the last couple of years, but … you look at the way that they’ve been able to run the football; they’re an excellent offensive line. They play with great continuity.
“They’ve got tight ends and receivers that are willing to compete without the ball. [Titans wide receivers] A.J. Brown and Julio [Jones] are obviously really big-time threats on the perimeter. But I do think that they’ll take a very similar approach, regardless of whether Derrick’s playing or not.’’
Offensively, the Rams are formidable with the rebirth of quarterback Matthew Stafford, who’s an MVP candidate after toiling in Detroit for his entire career before being traded to Los Angeles in the offseason.
Stafford ranks top five in passing yards, yards per attempt, yards per game, TDs and passer rating. His top receiver is Cooper Kupp, who’s having a career year with a league-leading 924 receiving yards.
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