The regular season is finally upon us and the Tennessee Titans will open the season with the AFC West favorites, the Oakland Raiders. Oakland visited Tennessee in week three last season with the Raiders winning 17-10. But this is why there will be a different result on Sunday.
Why the Tennessee Titans Will Defeat the Oakland Raiders
1. Improved Titans receivers
But this off-season, the Titans spent a lot of resources upgrading the receiver position. They used the fifth overall pick (acquired from the Rams in the Jared Goff trade) to select Western Michigan product Corey Davis. They also signed veteran Eric Decker, who caught double digit touchdowns in 2012, 2013 and 2015 to add to last year’s leading receiver in Rishard Matthews.
The Raiders struggled last season with the 24th ranked pass defense in the league. They also gave up a lot of big plays through the air as they tied for second last in yards allowed per attempt. As long as the Titans can keep Khalil Mack out of the backfield, Mariota should have time to find these new receivers against the Raiders secondary. However, both Davis and Decker missed time in camp so they may have to develop chemistry with Mariota.
2. The run defense will slow down Marshawn Lynch
After a year off, the 31-year-old Lynch comes back with his hometown team in Oakland. Despite having one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, he returns to face one of the toughest defenses to run on in the league. Last year, the Titans ranked second in the NFL in run defense.
It remains to be seen if Lynch can buck the trend and be productive after reaching his 30s. During his 2015 campaign in Seattle he was banged up and ran for just 417 yards behind a poor line, averaging 3.8 per attempt.
This will make Oakland one dimensional offensively and force Derek Carr to throw the ball, which will lead to turnovers. Newcomers Johnathan Cyprien and Logan Ryan will improve the Titans secondary (even though the preseason was sketchy at best for that unit) and produce at least one key turnover that will force the game in the Titans favor.
3. Home field advantage
For the first time in a few years, there is an excitement about the Titans this year. Over the last few years the Titans have struggled as they looked for a consistent quarterback as they went through the doldrums of Kerry Collins, Jake Locker, Vince Young, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Hasselbeck, Zach Mettenberger and others. But now with Mariota leading the charge and a solid front seven and running game in place, the division is there for the taking.
There will be a raucous crowd as the Titans open at home for the second straight year. Last year the Titans shot themselves in the foot over and over again and gave Minnesota the game. But not this time. This team is ready to roll and all the expectations will not phase them.
Tennessee actually won three straight season openers between 2013 and 2015. Also, Tennessee rolled to a 38-13 win in the 2010 season opener last time these two played in week one. Expect a much closer game tomorrow, but the same team to come out on top 24-20.