On November 24, the Tennessee Titans, (aka the Flaming Thumbtacks), will be flying almost 2000 mile west, hopefully into the setting sun of their season, when they travel to face the Oakland Raiders.
The Titans head into this game with a 4-6 record, the same as the Raiders. The difference is they head into it with a 2 game losing streak, going 1-4 in their last 5 games.
Part of the nose dive has to do with the loss of quarter back Jake Locker after suffering a Lisfranc injury.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, current starter for the Titans, is in his 9th year and on his 4th team. His overall record is 23-44-1, and since he took over for the Titans, he has been 0-3. Despite the low QB rating and lop-sided win -loss record, Fitzpatrick has completed over 61% of his passes with a long of 77 yards and is averaging just over 200 yards a game. Basically, he’s good enough to throw touchdowns and beat us, if the defense gets full of itself like it did against Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles. Scoring no less than 27 points in each of the last 3 games, any one that thinks the Titans and Fitzpatrick are pushovers need to think again.
Fitzpatrick’s targets at the wide receiver position are Nate Washington and Kendall Wright. They don’t have the highest numbers, but they are doing better than our receivers. They also have Delanie Walker. Between those 3 players, they have over 1500 yards in receptions.
With DJ Hayden on injured reserve, we will see more Phillip Adams. and Usama Young. We will pretty much need a flawless game from them and every member of secondary, especially Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter. What works to our benefit is that neither of their starting receivers have exceptional height. They aren’t the biggest targets.
If we can force a couple of questionable throws with pressure by the line and/or blitzing, there is a good chance we can get the turnovers that will be important this game.
Ground support is handled by Chris Johnson. He has had at least 1000 yards on the ground every season he has played and has even broken the 2000 mark. He can catch out of the back field, too. He is backed up by Shonn Greene. His numbers aren’t so impressive this season, but his last 2 seasons he has topped 1000 yards himself.
We have faced running backs that have better numbers than Johnson at this point in time, but we can’t let that stop us from being aggressive at the line, with solid support by the line backing corps. Whether or not we see Miles Burris back this game still isn’t known. Even if he suits up, we don’t know how much play time he will have. Nick Roach has been playing well and this game is key in keeping the slim play- off hopes of the raiders alive.
For the Raiders on offense we have Matt McGloin, the guy Mark Davis picked above all other un-drafted rookies to make the team, seeing him as more than a camp arm. He’s preparing for his 2nd career start.
A constant over-achiever, he put up 197 yards in his first start, with roughly 156 of those being in the air. 3 of those passes were for scores. He didn’t throw a single pick, and on his sacks, he protected the ball and pretty much avoided the big hit.
However now there is game film to tear apart for this young man that shows no fear standing in the pocket.
He will be going in to the game without the team’s leading receiver, Denarius Moore. He is going to have to rely on others with far less play time and experience while facing a team with 7th ranked passing defense. Mychel Rivera, Brice Butler, and Andre Holmes will have to pick up the slack. With Moore out, it may mean Marcel Reece gets more touches, too.
I am hoping for another 100 plus yard game from Rashad Jennings, as the weak link in the defense for them is the ground game, and, believe it or not, it is our strong suit. The Titans defense is ranked 20th against the rush. Maybe he can get a couple more of those long runs for touchdowns after getting those first 4 ugly yards.
Their defense, though, isn’t weak. They have recovered every single one their 9 forced fumbles. They have 8 interceptions, returned for 105 yards over the season. They have 53 passes defended. They have sacked the qb 26 times.
What scares me considering the above? I keep looking at those 11 punts. E-L-E-V-E-N. 4 scoring possessions, a missed field goal, and 11 failed drives. That’s almost triple our scoring drives. I know we did go conservative, but I am not a fan of protecting a lead. That is nothing more than a prevent offense. We all know all it can take is one uncalled home for a punt return to end up a touchdown. Marquette King has been doing a very good job, but we need to convert more than 32% of our 3rd down attempts.
Over all, we match pretty evenly with the Titans, with an edge going to them just based on experience. But they also have a higher 3rd down completion ratio. They have fewer penalties and penalty yards. They have made fewer mistakes.
We need ball control, and a lot of it. We need to move the ball, and not let up. A few games ago, Head Coach Dennis Allen mentioned the killer instinct. We let up on the gas pedal against Pittsburg Steelers , and we did the same against the Houston Texans. Both times it almost cost us the game.
This goes beyond trying to chew the clock. While I understand what the potential is, burning time while eating yards, we have been doing neither when we go conservative on offense. We end up punting.
The defense has been doing a stellar job keeping us in the games. I don’t like putting that kind of pressure on them. Last week we were within 2 yards of losing the game. It was Charles Woodson that not only prevented the score, but a first down, also. We also benefitted from a false start after that terrific stop. That’s a lot of luck to count on, and we need to not push ours so much.
Stay focused, no turnovers and no let up on the offense. The game is 60 minutes long, and the offense can’t stop in the 4th quarter like it has been.
If the Raiders do that, they can take Titans down, no Medusa head needed.