Week 3 Preview; Oakland Raiders (1-1) @ Tennessee Titans (1-1):
The Raiders venture to music city to play the rebuilding Tennessee Titans in an important early season contest.
What to look for on Offense:
The Titans defense has improved a lot from last season. In the first two games they played well. They’ve only given up 1 offensive td on the year. They are ranked 13th in both passing and rushing defense but their pass rush has been inconsistent. They do have 4 sacks on the year with all of them coming in game 2 against the Lions. The Vikings offensive line seemed to control the game for the most part against Tennessee’s pass rush.
Look for the Titans LB Brian Orakpo to be the key pass rusher against the Raiders. He already has 2 sacks on the year and he was very disruptive against the Lions.
The Titans have said that they are wanting to stop the Raiders running game. If that is true the Raiders should be able to throw deep when their safeties are playing up to stop the run. I question if that is their main game plan though and look for them to mix it up at times & play their safeties back to protect for Cooper and the long ball.
Cooper is averaging an amazing 18.9 yards a catch with a long of 43. Even with teams trying to stop the long ball, he has had a great start to the season. With the Raiders balanced attack, they should be able to handle the Titans defense. Carr will definitely have his chances to audible today.
The Raiders running game is #2 in the NFL. As I said before the season started, if the Raiders use ALL of their running backs, they will thrive. They have done that and the running game looks fine. Clive Walford saw some targets last week and was effective. With Melenik Watson back, the Raiders offensive line should do very well.
A key matchup will be Titans CB Perrish Cox v.s. Amari Cooper. The great Dick Lebaeu is the Titans Defensive coordinator and he loves zone blitzes. This should free up Cooper so look for Amari to have a big day. Perrish Cox is also one of the slower CB’s in the NFL so if the safeties give help on Cooper, this should open up the run game. Carr rarely calls audibles but he needs to do it today if the Raiders are going to continue their high powered offense.
What to look for on Defense:
The Raiders are averaging giving up an unheard of 8 yards a play on defense. Some have tried to pin this on Ken Norton Jr. and Ben Heeney but to be honest there is a WHOLE lot of blame to go around. Sean Smith has played passively and is really struggling; the safeties have also struggled in their help defense. The pass rush is non existent at times and Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack have a combined 1 sack in 2 games.
Rookie LB Cory James will play for Ben Heeney. At Colorado St. Cory James was a consistent player and quality playmaker but he also has the same 40 times and same speed as Ben Heeney. James is athletic but not fast.
Look for the Raiders to make QB Marcus Mariota beat them. I see the safeties playing much more aggressively to stop RB DeMarco Murray and his backup Derrick Henry. What makes Murray such a threat is that he’s a great pass catcher as well. Murray has 131 yards rushing on the year but he’s also caught 12 passes for 91 yards and 2 TD’s. Murray will be a handful for the LB’s to cover today.
The Raiders will crowd the box on early downs to stop the run, and try to force obvious passing downs. This will help the pass rush and also make possible blitzes more effective.
Stacy McGee and Jihad Ward played most of the game against Atlanta and that should continue. McGee did get a sack but their effectiveness was definitely in doubt. Justin Ellis and Dan Williams continue to struggle for playing time. It will be interesting to see if that continues.
Bruce Irvin was invisible for most of the game and even though Khalil Mack has been absent on the pass rush, he’s been excellent against the run. Look for Mack to come out swinging to get his first sack of the year.
The Raiders blitzed on several of the big plays for Atlanta last week and it was not very effective. So far the DL hasn’t played well so look for a CB or safety blitz on occasion. The fearful thing obviously is that if the blitz is picked up, this defensive backfield is in trouble.
Titans WR Kendall Wright is their deep threat and he is not going to play. The Raiders should be able to handle the Titans passing game.
Delanie Walker is a top tight end but he’s hurting and will be a game time decision. That definitely helps the Raiders.
Look for some turnovers today. Mariota already has 2 INT’s and 1 lost fumble (he had 8 fumbles last year). Mariota’s accuracy is hit or miss at times. He did play well last week in Detroit in the 4th quarter to help them win. Murray will fumble on occasion as well so look for the Raiders to get their first turnover of the season.
Will Khalil Mack be Back?:
In today’s social media environment, people live and die with each game. Seasoned fans know this is a marathon and not a race. What people also aren’t getting is that some players take time to get going, and Khalil Mack is definitely one of the them. In his rookie year he didn’t get his first sack until week 10.
In the first 8 games last year, Mack had 27 tackles and 4 sacks. In the last 8 games he had 50 tackles and 11 sacks. In last years game at Tennessee he had 6 tackles and 2 sacks. Look for a good day from Khalil in Nashville.
-Tennessee did not win a home game last year and they are 2-15 in their last 17 games at home; worst in the NFL.
-Titans kicker Ryan Succop has made his last 19 field goals inside the 50 yard line.
-Raiders are averaging 7.0 yards a play on offense, and give up 8.0 yards a play on defense. They are allowing 4.5 yards per rush on D.
-Oakland is one of 3 teams that has yet to get a defensive turnover.
-Raiders return teams are near last in most categories. They are averaging 15.7 yards per kickoff return, and 5.3 yards per punt return.
-Oakland Coach Jack Del Rio is 76-81 in 11 years as a head coach and is 8-10 as Raiders head coach.
-Titans haven’t won a game at home against a non AFC South team since 9/29/2013. They have not won 2 games in a row since 12/22 & 29/2013.
The Tennessee Titans have arguably been the worst team the NFL the last 3 years. Playoff teams do not lose to the Tennessee Titans. In the Titans last 34 games, they are an abysmal 6-28. If the Raiders can’t win today, this greatly hurts them. No excuse can make it acceptable.
All the stars are aligned for a big Raider win and that can spell trouble. In the NFL anything can and does happen. The offense played well last week but you would have hoped for more than 28 points against a bad pass rush which was last in the NFL in 2015. Especially in a home opener.
The Raiders have come out sluggish in both their games and have not played well in the first half. They need to come out fast and even think of going no huddle. The Titans do not have the offense to score a lot of points so if the Raiders can get out to a big lead, their pass rush can tee off against Mariota.
Amazingly the Raiders are only a 1 ½ point favorite. It’s hard to see the Raiders losing this game but crazier things have happened. This is an early must win game and the hopes in Raider nation is that they will come out aggressive in the first half and take control of the game early. If not, the talk shows in the bay area will be must listen to radio on Monday.