Game Preview: Raiders at Titans

It would have been understandable if, after the losses to Pittsburgh and Minnesota, fans looked at the next two games, road games against terrible Detroit and Tennessee teams, and chalked them up as easy wins, or at least less challenging. Well, the Lions showed up last week and the Raiders didn’t, so we all saw how that went down.

So the Titans game becomes one that not only cannot be overlooked, but is an opportunity for Oakland to right itself after a nasty three-game losing streak, and preserve some hope for a possible wild-card berth. Even though players, coaches, and fans all seemed to accept from the beginning that this would be a rebuilding season, and that playoffs were not a realistic expectation, the Raiders’ back-to-back dominant victories against the Chargers and Jets suddenly changed those expectations.

The main goal this year was for the team to be competitive, and in every game. And aside from the season opener, that goal has been getting accomplished. But the last three losses have been frustrating, and the last two especially have been characterized by listless offense and inconsistent (at best) defense. The Raiders are going to miss Aldon Smith, who turned out to be an excellent pickup for the team, but Khalil Mack continues to develop practically game-to-game, and David Amerson plays like someone who’s ready to move up from nickel back into a starting CB role.

As the Titans get Marcus Mariota going as their franchise QB, the team’s main strength is their pass rush, tied for 4th in the league with 31.0 sacks, with 13 of those coming in their last three games. They may be 2-8, the worst team in the worst division in the league, but they still have some defensive weapons, the weather forecast calls for 100% chance of rain, and the Titans are trying to break a 10-game home losing streak, dating back almost a full calendar year.

The Raiders still need to get a better balance to the offense, not necessarily a perfect 50-50 pass-run ratio, but the roughly 2.5:1 ration they’ve had the last couple games is killing their time of possession. Amari Cooper has had some drops, but also has already proven himself to be a very capable receiver with a great work ethic, and Derek Carr has confidence in him, so he’s due for a nice bounce-back game. Maybe not this game, if it rains too much, but you never know.

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