The 4-6 Tennessee Titans travel to Oakland, California to take on the likewise 4-6 Oakland Raiders in an AFC matchup that amazingly still has playoff potential. The team that loses this game is basically eliminated from a playoff spot so you would think both teams would be extra motivated. The Raiders crushed the Titans in the 2002 41-24 and went on to lose in the Superbowl to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Raiders feature two young quarterbacks in Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin. McGloin is going to get the start but the Titans have prepared for both quarterbacks. Pryor is the more mobile of the two but is dealing with a knee injury. He will be questionable The Raiders will be without running back Darren McFadden and their best wide receiver in Denarius Moore. The Titans have several players who are banged up but should play, especially defensive end Derrick Morgan and right tackle David Stewart.
The keys to this game are really very simple. The Titans must stop the run and running back Rashard Jennings, a former Jacksonville Jaguar, is a player they should know even though his days in Jacksonville were marred by injury. A 7th round pick out of Liberty College, he has rushed 93 times for 480 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
The Titans need to get pressure on undrafted free agent quarterback Matt McGloin, who will be making his second start of the season at home against the Titans. McGloin acquitted himself quite against the Houston Texans, going 18 of 32 for 197 yards and three touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception and has only taken two sacks. However, his completion percentage is 53.2 and as is to be expected from a rookie he tends to struggle under pressure. The Titans need Derrick Morgan on the field.
Along with McGloin, the Titans must keep an eye on rookie tight end Mychal Rivera. I predicted the Tennessee Volunteer product would do well in Oakland and I’m happy to say he has proven me right thus far. Rivera is third on the receiving list behind wideouts Moore and Rod Streater in receptions and yardage. He has been targeted 35 times with 23 receptions for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has been responsible for 13 first downs to Denarius Moore’s 30 so with Moore out you would expect the Raiders to utilize him more in that capacity. Don’t discount Rod Streater either who has 35 receptions for 507 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is responsible for 20 first downs.
On offense, the Titans need quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to continue his string of strong games. The Raiders will be without defensive end Jason Hunter who has 2 sacks on the season, and strong safety Tyvon Branch. Rookie center Brian Schwenke is expected to be back and hopefully right tackle David Stewart will play. The Titans need to get some consistency from their run game but the Raiders defense is ranked 6th in the league against the run.
The Titans utilized an up tempo no huddle offense in their home loss to the Indianapolis Colts which should help prepare them for tough conditions in the Black Hole. Expect more of the same and for the Titans to continue to throw the pass. The Raiders defense is ranked 25th in the league against the pass and they are allowing 252.7 passing yards per game. Fitzpatrick showed an affinity for second year wide recieiver Kendall Wright and tight end Delanie Walker in his first start since the Titans lost Jake Locker for the season. I expect that trend to continue but I bet you see more Justin Hunter in this game. He left the Colts game early with a concussion but has been cleared to play. I think you could see second year tight end Taylor Thompson more this game as well.
Playing in Oakland is tough but this Titans team should be hungry. If they protect the football and playing mistake free on defense they should win this game. The defense cannot continue to miss assignments and must return to tackling fundamentals. Ryan Fitzpatrick must protect the football and be patient with his offense. Let’s all pray for no more special teams mishaps as I simply cannot take another one.