Tennessee and Oakland are two teams in the AFC that most “experts” believe will be at home once the playoffs begin. However, both clubs have done enough retooling in the offseason that they come into 2010 believing they are not that far away from being contenders.
For the visiting Raiders, the key addition, of course, is ex-Redskin Jason Campbell, who brings some much-needed stability to the quarterback position. If Campbell can just do what he did in Washington, it should elevate the entire offense.
For Tennessee, the Titans hope their own quarterback, Vince Young, has matured enough that he is ready to play at a higher level and build off what he did over the final 10 games a year ago.
Young has 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson, and the Titans may need to score more this year while a rebuilt defense, that features five new starters, gets time to jell.
Keys for the Titans
• Tennessee is well aware that other teams will be keying on Johnson, giving Young the opportunity to exploit single-coverage matchups on the outside. Young's passing has to be accurate enough for the Titans to move the ball consistently through the air.
• While the defense is younger and perhaps better than last year’s 28th-ranked group, the Titans have been paying loads of attention to special teams, trying to improve coverage and return schemes that were deplorable at times last season. They are hoping rookie returners like Marc Mariani and Damian Williams can combine with holdovers and recent waiver pickups to improve the special teams units.
Keys for the Raiders
• Oakland has to feel better about its offense with Campbell taking the controls, especially with JaMarcus Russell having run the show for most of the past couple of seasons. Campbell needs to settle the Raiders down and get some sustained drives early, to give a team that has lost at least 11 games per season since its 2002 Super Bowl season, some much needed confidence.
• The Raiders’ defense is used to carrying the load, and given how bad the offense has been in the recent past, has done OK at times. There is talent here with players like Nnamdi Asomugha at cornerback, Michael Huff at safety and Richard Seymour at defensive tackle. If this unit can frustrate Young into an early mistake, it can seize moment.
While the Raiders fancy themselves as much improved, the Titans have to hold serve at home against a 5–11 team from a year ago. As long as they avoid costly errors, they should be fine. Titans 24–16.