Friend and fellow blogger Jamal Black covers the Tennessee Titans for Titans Report. In advance of the Raiders/Titans game on Sunday, we each discussed which team we think will win and why.
Asher: Jamal, what's your prediction for the game Sunday?
Jamal: I have a hard time making predictions lately. I am generally a cynic as a fan. Losing five of six games, losing to the Jags and losing to the Colts after jumping out to a lead – these only magnify my pessimism. At the same time, the fact that nobody in the hunt for the last wildcard spot seems intent on pulling away – this gives me some sense of comfort. There’s a strong juxtaposition which exists in my mind and I waffle and waver by the hour.
The Titans need to win this game. I am a big believer in the mental side of things in sports. I can see this team picking themselves up and playing well again. They are certainly capable of it. They have the talent to be a wildcard team even in a year where being such will require ten wins. I can also see this team falling apart. The last two losses were weighty. Both were divisional games. Both were games at home. If they had beaten a team everyone else beats soundly and if they could have protected a lead instead of fumbling it away and whimpering to the finish line, they’d be tied for the division and/or in the driver’s seat for a wildcard. Instead, the division is lost and the Titans may end up seeing another team get hot on their way to the playoffs.
The Titans’ pass defense is solid and I think the run defense will improve. It almost has to and Moise Fokou’s return should help. Defensively, I have some faith in at least a good game and maybe even a very good one. Offensively there are concerns. Will the Titans’ recent run success be reproduced again? Will it be sustained for an entire game? Will Fitzpatrick and the receivers be able to take advantage of opportunities? I can’t confidently claim ‘YES’ on any of those questions.
Whether or not it’s the fan in me, my belief that Oakland is as bad as their record over the past number of years, or ) hopefully) an accurate read of the Titans’ team pulse – I expect Tennesse to win this game. A defensively focused game and a score of 20-17 wouldn’t surprise.
The biggest wildcard is special teams, which has been a weakness for the Titans all year. If special teams turns the ball over again or the Titans have to attempt another of the world’s worst onside kick attempts, my hope will swiftly abandon ship.
I should have asked if you had a no-name TE. Expect a career day from him if you do.
Jamal: How many points will the Raiders lose by?
I'll go with -3 points. I picked the Raiders to win this one in my weekly selections and I won't back off that, now. These two teams are very similar in many ways – struggling offenses, better than average defenses, inconsistent QB play. For me, then, the fact that this is a home game for the Raiders will play a large factor.
The Raiders aren't the Seahawks or the Chiefs, who can count on huge crowd support to help them during the game but the Raiders do play better at home and it helps to get into the routine of playing at your own stadium in front of your home crowd.
I think the Raiders will do a pretty good job of matching up versus Chris Johnson and shutting him down. That will put the onus on Ryan Fitzpatrick's arm for the Tennessee offense, and I'll take that matchup.
On defense, I expect Tennessee to be a solid, disciplined team but RB Rashad Jennings has shown he's actually very tough to bring down. He can bust some long runs – he ran for an 80 yard TD last week versus the Texans – but his best ability may be to eke out tough yards after being hit.
Of course if last week's success with McGloin comes to a screetching halt, this could end up being one of the uglier games in recent memory. We'll see it all unfold tomorrow, I guess.
We have a few no-name tight ends, by the way. I'll expect career days from all of them! The key tight end to watch is rookie Mychal Rivera who isn't a great blocker but has good speed and pretty good hands.