Titans vs Raiders preview

The Tennessee Titans (4-2) begin a three-game homestand by hosting the Oakland Raiders (2-4) this Sunday. The Titans held on to beat the Texans 38-36 last week, while the Raiders suffered a very tough 12-10 loss to the Chiefs.
Field: grass. Forecast: Partly cloudy, with a high near 63°. North wind 5-10 mph.
Oakland scouting report:
Overview — After only four games this year, the Raiders matched last season’s win total of two games, so improvement is being made under new head coach Lane Kiffin. That’s only if you look at their record. When you look a little closer, the Silver and Black still have a lot of work to do before they can live up to their motto of Commitment to Excellence.
Offense — This doesn’t make sense to me, but Raiders owner Al Davis has done many things over the years which don’t make sense. Most teams around the league now carry only two quarterbacks on their roster, but the Raiders have four. What makes this even more unusual is the Raiders are a running team, not a passing team. Go figure. When they do pass, it’s a short passing game, not a deep one. The Titans’ safeties shouldn’t have to worry much about the deep ball this week. Daunte Culpepper got all the reps in Wednesday’s practice and should start. Josh McCown, the starter for the first three games, says he’s now recovered from a broken toe that gave the job to Culpepper. Number one overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell is waiting in the wings and former starter Andrew Walter is still hanging on to a roster spot. Add them all up and what do you get? The 29th-best passing offense in the league.
The Titans d-line will face a zone-blocking scheme for the second week in a row after shutting down Houston’s run game last week. Running back LaMont Jordan leads the league’s fourth-ranked rushing offense.
Defense — Oakland has had difficulty stopping the run this year and is last in the NFL, giving up 5.2 yards per rush. LaDainian Tomlinson accounted for 198 rushing yards and four touchdowns against them, Ronnie Brown rushed for 134 yards, Travis Henry had 128 and then Larry Johnson insulted them with 112 more. Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan plays a standard 4-3 defense. Their safeties are predictable, with SS Michael Huff almost always taking the tight end and FS Stuart Schweigert playing deep centerfield. SLB Thomas Howard is a rising star and may be their best defensive player.
Special Teams — The Raiders have a strong-legged kicker in Sebastian Janikowski and a good punter in Shane Lechler. Their problems are in the return game and it doesn’t help that KR/PR Chris Carr (calf) is injured. The coverage units have not excelled and the Titans have a good chance to break one.
For a look at the Raiders from their viewpoint and perspective, please check out MVN’s Thoughts From the Darkside.
Matchups to Watch: The Titans front seven versus the Raiders running game should be the deciding factor in this contest. Stop their running game and you stop the Raiders. I’ll be curious to watch Robert Gallery, formerly a #2 overall draft pick, who’s now playing left guard in his third attempt to master a position. Gallery will face Titans RDT Albert Haynesworth.
On the other side of the ball, the matchup to watch is once again the running game versus the front seven. Warren Sapp’s best days are behind him, but he’s still a player and will be a candidate for the Hall of Fame someday. He’ll line up across from LG Jacob Bell.
Connections: Kerry Collins played for the Raiders from 2004-05, throwing for nearly 7,300 yards and 41 touchdowns in 28 starts. Oakland is the hometown of Titans rookie RB Chris Henry.
Outlook: While the Raiders have the worst run defense in the league, the Titans are fifth in rushing. Tennessee leads the league in allowing only 60 yards per game on the ground, neutralizing Oakland’s strength. It looks like the Titans should win the battle for ground supremacy.
Prediction: The bookies like Tennessee by only 7½ points, probably because bettors are worried about Vince Young’s health. I like them a little more than that.
Tennessee 24
Oakland 13

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