Titans Raiders week one matchup prediction
This is a matchup of two awfully similar teams.
Each quarterback has a promising future and is one of the game’s best young passers. Marcus Mariota has terrific speed for a quarterback and an outstanding red zone ratio. In a tight game, those two qualities could be the difference. Derek Carr has to face a Dick Lebeau coached defense.
Edge: Mariota gets the edge over Carr here, but only slightly.
Latavius Murray only averaged 56 yards per game last season. The Raiders replaced him with Marshawn Lynch. Lynch unretired to bring his thundering running style back to the NFL. The Titans had the second best run defense in the league last year, yet were porous up the middle. Lynch poses a problem for the Titans defense. Can an older back unretire and still play at a high level? We will find out on Sunday.
Derrick Henry participated with the first string offense for much of the offseason. DeMarco Murray has had a couple minor injury issues and some veteran rest. On the Titans website, Murray is quoted as saying that he feels great. During 2016, Murray was the primary ball carrier and Henry just received a handful of carries. Henry should be utilized more often in 2017. A 60/40 split seems likely with Murray not having many game reps this summer. The Raiders did not do well against the run in 2016. They shifted linebacker Cory James from WLB to ILB this summer and he performed very well. The Raiders are hopeful this will shore up their run defense woes.
Edge: Again to the Titans. There are too many unknowns with Lynch and if the Raiders run defense is truly improved.
The Raiders have two impressive wide receivers in Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Jared Cook is a name Titans fans know all too well. Seth Roberts is trouble. He has a way of being somewhat invisible and then making big catches to move the chains forward. Cordarrelle Patterson may have finally found a team to best utilize his talents. While he hasn’t had much success in the NFL, he is still a game breaking, big play type of weapon.
The Titans are absolutely loaded. They can field four quality wide receivers, two running backs that can catch the ball well, and two tight ends that are too athletic for most defenders to cover.
Neither team defenses the pass well.
Edge: Titans. This is only slight. The Titans varying options for Mariota are an awful lot for a defense to handle.
The Titans offense has been “too cute” far too often in prior years. It’s unclear if this was an offensive coordinator trying to make something happen with a weak roster or poor play calling. At one point, it could be said that the Titans were building a brand. They ran the ball far too often for a team that was behind in games. Their play calling is a significant concern entering into this game.
The Raiders have veterans working in an offensive system. Their offense is well managed. Despite Latavius’ lack of success, they still committed to the ground game often enough in 2016. They were well aware that an offense must be balanced when they could have easily just decided to throw the ball far more often.
The Raiders have a significant edge on game-planning, but their defense is probably not deep enough to stand up to Murray and Henry all game. Those two should have little trouble running against the Raiders in the fourth quarter.
Neither team can stop the deep pass well. The Raiders drafted Obi Melifonwu to fix this issue, but he is on injured reserve.
The Titans are trying to convert outstanding strong safety Kevin Byard into an outfielder free safety. He didn’t fare so well in the preseason. Their best outfielder was Denzel Johnson and he is on the practice squad. It’s almost like one can still hear Al Davis saying, “go deep baby.” The Raiders are well-built to torch the Titans secondary deep. Good deep ball offenses usually present a feast or famine success rate against Dick Lebeau defenses. Lebeau is going to send “everyone” in to blitz and if a quarterback is waiting for his receivers to get deep, he will be sacked. If the offensive line can give the quarterback enough time, then his wide receivers are in a fantastic position to make a big play. Cook, Crabtree, and Cooper are three of the best at getting open deep.
Matchup to watch
Donald Penn only played in the last preseason game due to a contract issue. He is the Raiders left tackle and an integral part in keeping Carr upright. He will face Brian Orakpo and the extremely athletic Austin Johnson.
Penn told the Las Vegas Review Journal:
“To be honest with you, I’m not going to know until I get out there and play,” Penn said. “It’s hard to get in football shape. You try and do everything you can, but to be in actual football shape is hard. I’m just going to go out there and believe in all my training. I have been working hard. I felt pretty good against Dallas in those 19 plays. That helped me out mentally, knowing, ‘OK, that Dallas game, I was good. I held in there.’
Penn’s comments are not reassuring for a tackle that faces a stiff test on Sunday. While some are discarding this by stating that he is a veteran, he’ll be ready, it does present some cause for concern for the Raiders and their fans. Carr did get injured last season. The last thing Raiders fans want to see on Sunday is Carr absorbing many hits because their left tackle is not quite ready.
Score: 38-31 Titans victory