Titans vs Raiders: Keys to victory

One of college football’s most storied programs, the USC Trojans, will be well represented on the sidelines in this week’s NFL match-up between the Tennessee Titans (4-2) and the Oakland Raiders (2-4). Titans’ head coach/USC alum Jeff Fisher (1977-80) will match wits with the youngest head coach in NFL history, Lane Kiffin, who served as USC’s offensive coordinator (2005-06) before being hired by the Raiders. The man who Kiffin replaced at USC, Norm Chow (2001-04), is currently the Titans’ offensive coordinator.
Jeff Fisher’s Tennessee Titans are currently tied for second place behind the Colts in the competitive AFC South division. Under Kiffin, the 2007 edition of the Silver and Black has been an improvement over last season’s abysmal 2-14 squad that earned the unworthy distinction of being the NFL’s worst team. However, despite being a more competitive team this season, the Raiders are in danger of losing their third consecutive game.
To earn their fifth win and continue their pursuit of a postseason birth, the Titans should focus on accomplishing the following three objectives:
Turn red zone opportunities into touchdowns
Lost in the greatness of Rob Bironas’ record-breaking eight field goal performance was the Titans’ inability to score touchdowns in the red zone. Currently, the Titans are the NFL’s 27th ranked team in red zone touchdown percentage, converting touchdowns on only 9 of their 26 opportunities (34.6%) inside the red zone.
If the Titans are to realize their offensive potential, they must do a better job of turning red zone scoring opportunities into touchdowns. Instead of Bironas consistently trotting on to the field to kick field goals, we need to see him kicking more extra points.
Exploit Oakland’s Fumble-itis
During last week’s 38-36 win over the Texans, the Titans’ defense was able to force six Houston turnovers. This week, the Titans face a Raiders’ squad that is tied for the league lead in fumbles (17). Oakland quarterback Daunte Culpepper is notorious for losing the football on a consistent basis, coughing up the football an astronomical 87 times in 89 career games. As a result of Culpepper and the Raiders’ propensity for putting the football on the ground, the opportunistic Tennessee Titan defense should have some chances to recover fumbles on Sunday.
Prevent Oakland’s long runs
The Raiders currently own the league’s 4th best rushing attack, averaging close to 146 yards per game on the ground. The Raiders have been extremely effective turning rushing attempts into big plays: they are currently tied for 2nd in the league with 10 runs going for 20 yards or longer. The Titans’ #1 ranked run defense must be up to the task of preventing Lamont Jordan and Justin Fargas from turning routine carries into long scampers. 

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