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Raiders face up-and-coming Titans on Sunday
By: Staff Writer - StatFox
Published: 9/7/2017  at  2:47:00 PM
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Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Line: Tennessee -2.5, Total: 50.5

Two AFC teams on the rise look to get on a playoff track in Week 1 as Oakland visits Tennessee.

Oakland was riding high at 12-3 before QB Derek Carr broke his leg last December. They earned their first playoff berth in 14 years, but were soundly beaten in the Wildcard Round by the Texans with third-stringer Connor Cook under center. With Carr healthy, Oakland will have one of the league’s best passing games, though they’re taking a big gamble by counting on over-the-hill RB Marshawn Lynch to lead the rushing attack. The defense has a true superstar in DE Khalil Mack, but very little production beside him. They’ll need rookies to contribute right away in the secondary to improve a flimsy pass defense. The Titans also lost their promising young QB in Week 15 when Marcus Mariota went down, dashing Tennessee’s playoff hopes. 9-7 was a six-game improvement from 2015, and Mariota has developed into an accurate and dangerous passer. Tennessee’s running game was among the league’s best last season, with a talented, young O-line clearing paths for RBs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. The Titans lack elite talent on defense. The pass rush is dangerous, and vital offseason upgrades were made to the secondary. These teams met in Week 3 last season, and the Raiders won 17-10 as 1.5-point road favorites, forcing three Mariota turnovers. The Raiders also won-and-covered as road favorites in 2015. With Carr in the lineup over the past two seasons, Oakland is 5-0 SU & ATS against the AFC South and 10-6 SU & 12-4 ATS in road games. Since 2013, Tennessee is 7-2 SU & 5-2-2 ATS as a home favorite of 3 points or less.

Raiders QB Derek Carr (3,937 yards, 28 TD, 6 INT) is on the brink of becoming an elite passer, and Oakland was 12-3 before he broke his leg in December. WR Amari Cooper (83 receptions, 1,153 yards, 5 TD) has star potential, but disappears at times, while veteran WR Michael Crabtree (89 receptions, 1,003 yards, 8 TD) provides a reliable target on shorter throws. The signing of free agent TE Jared Cook gives Carr another dynamic weapon. RB Marshawn Lynch, who didn’t play last season, was acquired from Seattle to lead the rushing attack. While he hasn’t performed at a high level in three years, he will be running behind a powerful offensive line. Defensive Player of the Year DE Khalil Mack (11 sacks, 5 forced fumbles) is not only a lethal pass-rusher, but also an exceptional run-defender. OLB Bruce Irvin (7 sacks, 6 forced fumbles) also excelled last season, but the rest of the team combined for only seven sacks and the Raiders were last in the league in that category. The secondary allowed 7.6 yards per pass attempt (worst in the NFL) last season and may remain problematic. First-round draft pick CB Gareon Conley has barely practiced with the team because of shin splints, and second-rounder S Obi Melifonwu is a project who will likely begin the year in a part-time role.

The Titans smash-mouth running game was firing on all cylinders last season, with RBs DeMarco Murray (1,664 yards from scrimmage, 12 total TD) and Derrick Henry (627, 5) thriving behind the excellent blocking of OTs Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin. QB Marcus Mariota's (3,426 passing yards, 26 passing TD, 9 INT, 349 rushing yards) quick release, accuracy and improving field-reading skills are promising, and Tennessee figures to limit his running after both of his pro seasons ended with leg injuries. TE Delanie Walker (65 receptions, 800 yards, 7 TD) will continue to be a top target, with free agent WR Eric Decker joining WR Rishard Matthews (65 receptions, 945 yards, 9 TD) in the starting lineup. Fifth-overall draft pick WR Corey Davis is unlikely to contribute early in the year after missing all of the preseason with a hamstring injury. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau worked his magic in his first year with Tennessee, and the Titans were the second-ranked run defense in 2016. Massive-but-quick DT Jurrell Casey (5 sacks) is a playmaker up front, while the OLB combo of Brian Orakpo (10.5 sacks) and Derrick Morgan (9 sacks) came alive in LeBeau’s blitzing scheme. The secondary was a major weakness last season, so the Titans drafted CB Adoree' Jackson in the first round after signing former Patriots CB Logan Ryan and former Jaguars S Johnathan Cyprien.

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