September 9, 2017 - 3:55 am
Updated September 9, 2017 - 5:31 pm
Raiders at Titans
Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota suffered season-ending injuries within hours of each other last season during Week 16. The young QBs haven’t missed a beat during preseason and look to pick up where they left off and possibly enter the conversation for elite quarterbacks. Carr has the edge as the better pocket passer with an array of weapons, but Mariota can make plays with his arm and legs. Mariota might need a few weeks to adjust to his new wide receivers, while Carr has the chemistry part figured out.
The Titans were arguably the best rushing team a year ago with the one-two punch of Las Vegan DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Look for the Titans to continue to be a run-heavy offense. The Raiders added former Seahawks star Marshawn Lynch, who ended a one-year retirement. But Lynch had a down season in his final year in Seattle. Maybe a stout Raiders offensive line gives the aging Lynch a boost. The Raiders also will trot out DeAndre Washington, who had a standout training camp.
The Raiders have a deep receiving corps with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree at the top. If that’s not enough, Carr can throw to Seth Roberts and newcomers Cordarrelle Patterson and Jared Cook, a tight end. The Titans got better at wide receiver with the selection of fifth overall pick Corey Davis and the signing of Eric Decker.
Both teams are stacked with Pro Bowl offensive linemen. The Titans might have the best duo at the tackle spots with Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin. The Raiders are deeper in the trenches with Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson opening up holes in the middle for the running game. Standout Raiders left tackle Donald Penn recently ended his holdout.
The Raiders are led by the reigning defensive player of the year, Khalil Mack, but he’s not alone this season. Rookie Eddie Vanderdoes has impressed, and a healthy Mario Edwards Jr. could break out. The Titans don’t have the big names on the defensive line.
The Titans, who run a 3-4 defense, create havoc with linebackers Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo. Tennessee was the second-best team against the run in 2016. The Raiders’ weakest position is at linebacker with lots of inexperience outside of Bruce Irvin. For now, the Raiders are counting on Marquel Lee to patrol at middle linebacker.
This one might be a toss-up and not for the right reasons. Both squads have struggled against the pass, but the Titans might have improved with the additions of Logan Ryan and Adoree’ Jackson. The Raiders didn’t take any steps forward during the preseason with constant miscommunication.
The Raiders could have one of the best special teams with the addition of Pro Bowl kick returner Patterson. Marquette King had a breakout season in 2016 as the Raiders’ punter. The Raiders placed longtime kicker Sebastian Janikowski (back) on injured reserve Saturday and promoted Giorgio Tavecchio to the roster to take his place. The Titans could get a boost from the rookie Jackson returning kicks.
Mariota and the Titans flourish at disguising what plays they’re going to run. The presnap shifting could confuse the young Raiders linebackers. Even after the ball is snapped, the Titans can easily turn a pass play into a running one with the option.
Micah Roberts (Sportsline.com analyst): When looking at how this line has moved up to Titans minus-3, it shows that some large money believes these two teams are rated the same, but that is definitely not the case. The Titans made major strides and their QB is healthy, but Oakland is still 2.5 points better than them, which should make this game a pick based on giving Tennessee plus-2.5 for home-field advantage. Carr is at his best on the road, going 9-1 ATS in his past 10 starts, including a 17-10 win at Nashville last year. Raiders plus-3 is the play.